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The Division of Clinical Neurology (DCN) was established by Ritchie Russell who became the first holder of the Chair of Clinical Neurology in 1966 – which was endowed by the National Fund for Research into Poliomyelitis and other Crippling Diseases (subsequently Action Research). His early papers on closed head injury have had a continuing influence on assessing and managing such patients.

His successor, Bryan Matthews, developed research into the epidemiology of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) and established a national surveillance centre which proved to be of crucial importance in the subsequent discovery of human variant CJD linked to the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic. During this time the Department established a major interest in cerebrovascular disease, utilizing epidemiological approaches, which is continued by Peter Rothwell who established the Stroke Prevention Research Unit in 2000.

In 1987 Matthews was succeeded by John Newsom-Davis, who ensured that the Department became an international centre for neuromuscular diseases, particularly of the neuromuscular junction, and neuroimmunology. Newsom-Davis was followed by George Ebers, who established research focusing on the genetic epidemiology of multiple sclerosis. He was succeeded by Angela Vincent who continued the tradition of identifying antibody-mediated neurological diseases.

Professor Christopher Kennard was head of DCN until 2016, when he was succeeded by Professor Kevin Talbot. The DCN now has a broad portfolio of research, which in addition to neurogenetics and neuroimmunology, includes neurodegenerative disorders, multiple sclerosis, neuromuscular and cerebrovascular diseases and neuropathology. As well as undertaking laboratory research DCN has a strong commitment to translational and clinical research. A number of clinical trials are underway and plans are in place to expand this area.

The formation of the NDCN has also led to the joint attachment of the academic neurosurgeons (Aziz, Green) in the Nuffield Department of Surgery, who have established, with Peter Brown, the Functional Neurosurgery and Experimental Neurology Group.