The Hungarian Society of Neuropathology


The following article highlighting the history of the Hungarian society of Neuropathology and its current situation was published in Clinical Neuropathology issue July/August 2010 (news section)

Dear Reader,

Unfavorable health political decisions led in 2007 to the abolishment of the National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Budapest, the former "heart" of Hungarian Neuropathology. As a consequence, all activities of the Hungarian Neuropathological Society (HNPS) ceased in the past 2 years. The contribution by Gábor Kovács,  Péter Molnár and Katalin Majtényi shows that despite all difficulties HNPS is now reviving, and has defined new objectives for its future.
Johannes Hainfellner, Vienna

Current Challenges in Neuropathology - revival of the Hungarian Society of Neuropathology: a brief update

Herein we attempt to overview the activities of the Hungarian Neuropathological Society (HNPS) during the last decade, in particular how experiences of the past influence our objectives for the future.

Neuropathology in Hungary: Historical Annotations

Neuropathology and Neurosciences have a long tradition in Hungary. Numerous famous scientists working in all regions of the world originated from Hungary and received strong basic knowledge in the field of neurosciences in Hungary. For a comprehensive overview on history we refer to articles and books from Lóránt Leel-Őssy (e.g. History of Hungarian Neuropathology, Oktáv Press Kft. Esztergom, 1995).

Traditionally, the whole spectrum of neuropathological service was mainly performed in cities with Medical Universities (Budapest, Szeged, Debrecen, Pécs). However, some county hospitals also had neuropathological units. The neuropathology board examination was introduced in 2002. A 3-year-long special training must be preceded by board certification in either neurology or general pathology.

The largest Hungarian Neuropathology Center had been in the National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology for decades. This facility in Budapest was initially headed by I. Tariska, later by K. Majtényi, and eventually by G. G. Kovács. Since the early 1950’s, this National Center handled more than 300 brain autopsies annually from patients with a broad spectrum of neurological or psychiatric disorders including prion disease. Muscle and nerve biopsy samples were evaluated in the same institute (including M. Mázló, E. Siska, and M. J. Molnár), and there were facilities for experimental neuropathology (Zoltán Nagy). The Department of Neuropathology successfully joined quality control studies within the frame of EU projects (e.g. Brainnet Europe II). From 2003, a weekly consultative contact was maintained between this Department and the Institute of Neurology, Vienna, Austria (H. Budka). There was a strong and regular collaboration with the Neuropathology Laboratory of the National Institute of Neurosurgery (Z. Hanzély, K. Bálint and former leader F. Slowik) and there was a contact with the Neuropathology Laboratory of the Department of Neurology, Semmelweis University (M. Papp and T. Kovacs). These flourishing collaborations were inexplicably abolished in 2007 when the National Institute was exterminated as part of a “health care reform”. 

Fortunately the vast collection of specimens from the Neuropathology Department could be moved to the Department of Forensic Medicine (É. Keller), Semmelweis University, where a new Neuropathology and Prion Disease Reference Center was founded (Consultants: G. G. Kovács and K. Majtényi). This center offers neuropathological consultation and performs brain autopsies within the frame of the Hungarian Prion Disease Surveillance  in close collaboration with the Institute of Neurology, Medical University of Vienna (where G. G. Kovács presently has a full position). Currently, muscle and nerve biopsy diagnostics for middle and eastern Hungary are performed at the Clinical and Research Center for Molecular Neurology, Semmelweis University (M. J. Molnár) where a wide range of genetic screening for various neurological and psychiatric disorders is also undertaken. The neuropathology service for Neurosurgery in Budapest has moved to the 1st Department of Pathology of Semmelweis University.

A new era is indicated by the following initiatives. Since earlier this year a new Department of Neuropathology (Head: É. Gömöri) offers examinations of neurosurgical biopsy, muscle biopsy and autopsy samples in Pécs. Following full renovation of the Institute of Pathology (2011), a new Neuropathology Department is hoped to be established in Debrecen as well, where currently examination of neurosurgical biopsies and brains (together with material from a large county Hospital in Miskolc) is performed by P. P. Molnár. Presently, a portion of brain cutting  is performed at the Clinical Neuropathology Laboratory of the Department of Neurology (former leaders K. Sántha, I. Tariska, L. Molnár and K. Hegedüs). In Szeged, neurosurgical and muscle samples are evaluated at the Department of Pathology in close collaboration with our colleagues working in the UK (T. Hortobágyi, I. Bódi). Neuropathology based research is also carried out at, among others, the Department of Neurology, University of Szeged (J. Engelhardt) and the Central Research Facilities of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (L. Siklós). Further county Hospitals also perform neuropathological examinations (e.g. Szombathely – F. Garzuly, Tatabánya – L. Havas).

Hungarian Neuropathological Society: from birth to rebirth

The Hungarian Society of Neuropathology separated from the Hungarian Society of Neurologists and Psychiatrists in 1996. The first president of the Society was Lóránt Leel-Őssy (former member of the Executive Board of the ISN), followed by Katalin Majtényi. Neuroscientists, pathologists, and neurobiologists joined the smaller group of qualified neuropathologists. Training courses were organized twice a year, while scientific lectures were held every 2-3 months for all members. International Neuropathological Conferences were also organized every 3 or 4 years between 1991 and 2004, including Joint Meetings with the German and British Neuropathological Societies.

The abolishment of the National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in 2007 led to the standstill of the activities of the Society. On April 8th, 2010, after more than two years of hibernation, the Society organized a meeting in Budapest. In addition to scientific lectures, a new leadership was elected as well. The new president of the Society is Gábor G. Kovács; the new general secretary is Péter P. Molnár (Debrecen), board members include Sámuel Komoly (Pécs), Éva Gömöri (Pécs), Ágnes Egervári (Budapest), and József Engelhardt (Szeged). Katalin Majtényi stays on as Past President of the Society. Honorary members of the Society are Professors Bertalan Csillik, Ferenc Gallyas, György Gosztonyi, Mátyás Papp, and László Vécsei.

It is obvious from all the above, that after many difficulties, a “fall and rise“ in the activity of the Society may be seen; new departments appear and the Society will do its best to support them. World-renowned Hungarian neuropathologists working abroad (T. Revesz and P. Lantos in London,  G. Gosztonyi in Berlin) also provide strong support for this.

The major aims of the renewed Society are the following:

  • Regular meetings of society members; we made the first steps to organize joint meetings with the neighbouring countries, with particular support from the Austrian Society of Neuropathology.
  • Overview and possible restructuring of the requirements for Hungarian board certification in neuropathology in harmony with current training requirements within the EU.
  • Organization of a collaborative consultation system within Hungary and with other countries.
    The HNPS and neuropathology per se have faced a lot of difficulties. However, these have failed to force us to our knees. We are sure that our Society will survive and expand – our past and history demands at least as much. For this purpose, we need new effective strategies for helping us to actively re-connect to the neuropathological community not only within the EU and Europe but also within the whole world.

    Please send reactions to Gábor G. Kovács, e-mail: gabor.kovacs(at)meduniwien.ac.at
    Gábor G. Kovács,  Péter P. Molnár,  Katalin Majtényi, Budapest/Vienna