Edgar Douglas Adrian, a British physiologist, studied the function of neurons (nerve cells) in muscle stimulation and sensory organs. He also developed electroenecephalography (EEG) to measure brain activity. Adrian shared the 1932 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Sir Charles Scott Sherrington.
To measure electrical impulses of nerves, Adrian designed and built devices that amplified the electrical impulse by as much as 5,000 times. Using his specially built equipment. Adrian was able to perform experiments on a single nerve fiber within a frog's muscle.
He also studied impulses that cause pain. From this research, he learned that the size of the sensory part of the brain that leads to a particular organ depends on the specialized needs of an animal. For example, in a monkey, the sensory area of the brain devoted to the face and hands is larger than those devoted to other areas of the body. In a pig, almost all of the sensory area of the brain is devoted to the snout.
Adrian's development of EEG has helped doctors study and diagnose epilepsy and brain tumors.
Adrian attended Trinity College in Cambridge. He completed his undergraduate work in 1911 and received his medical degree in 1915. During World War I (1914-1918), he worked at a London hospital that cared for soldiers who had suffered nerve damage.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Adrian received the Copley Medal of the Royal Society (1946); the Medal for Distinguished Merit of the British Medical Association (1958), and the Jephcott Medal of the Royal Society of Medicine (1963).
In 1919, Adrian returned to Cambridge, where he became a professor and then master. From 1957 to 1975, he served as vice chancellor, and then chancellor, of Cambridge University. He was knighted as the First Baron Adrian in 1955.
Adrian married Hester Agnes Pinsent and they had one son and two daughters.