Dr. Charles E. Poletti
Specializing in Neurosurgery, Brain Surgery & Research
Dr. Charles Ellis Poletti Recognized for 40 Years of Excellence in Neurosurgery
Dr. Poletti has authored 80 research science articles and an atlas of microneurosurgery research

ELIZABETHTOWN, NY, March 16, 2011, Charles E. Poletti, MD, Retired Neurosurgeon from the University of Connecticut and Hartford Hospital, has been recognized by Cambridge Who’s Who for showing dedication, leadership and excellence in neurosurgery.

Though Dr. Poletti believes that history will not perceive him as a prominent human being, he personally feels that he has had a truly great life. He says, “at this stage in life (retired), it is wonderful to feel that virtually all the potential of who I am has been fulfilled and expressed.” He believes that good luck, hard work, the deep, steadfast, true love of his remarkable wife (who he refers to as “his better two-thirds"), the continuing love and devotion of his daughter and family and extensive help from his close friends and colleagues, all attributed to his achievements.

Dr. Poletti attended Exeter and Harvard University; at Harvard he majored in the history and philosophy of science and was particularly captivated by the mind-brain problem. This concept that stuck with him he believes set the trajectory of his life. After he graduated from college he was living in post-World War II Europe for over four years and was struck the realization of his extremely fortunate position in life. Already, given the perspective of human life on earth, he felt a great debt to luck and to the heritage of his ancestors. His post-college goals therefore were to spend a very significant part of his life trying, in turn, to make a contribution for his generation. He knew that if it did happen, it would still only be a miniscule bit in the grand scheme of things.

Driven by his conviction that the human mind, even the partial illusion of free will, is largely governed by the neural activity of the brain - as strongly suggested by some of Wilder Penfield's work - he decided to become an academic neurosurgeon and devote a very major part of his life to hands-on, basic science and clinical research on the human nervous system. The results of his research uncovered new knowledge and developed many hypotheses' about the anatomy and functioning of the human brain and new disease processes affecting the central nervous system. Furthermore, his research helped in creating operations to cure them.

Inspired by two years of working with Paul D. McLean, in his NIH Laboratory of Limbic Evolution and Behavior (the limbic system includes the temporal lobes, hypothalamus, and cingulate cortex-serving "emotional" behavior primarily), Dr. Poletti was able, at the beginning of his neurosurgical residency - through the generosity of Dr. William H. Sweet - to set up his own laboratory of limbic physiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

During the next 21 years, discoveries in basic science included a major unknown physiological pathway from the temporal lobes to the rest of the brain; definitive data requiring abandonment of Papez's formulation of the functioning of the limbic system as a circuit of physiological activity; the development of a new concept of the physiology and evolutionary role of the limbic system; and mapping in the spinal cord the physiological relationship of two new "cranial nerves" (C2 and C3) to sensory input from the face. Clinical discoveries included: (1) mapping the correct distribution of the C2 and C3 nerves to the head; finding two unsuspected disease processes affecting the C2 and C3 nerves - actually the most frequent cause of a common type of headache (occipital neuralgia) and operations to cure the conditions; and (2) the description of a new distinct and common type of lumbar spinal stenosis (a very common disease in older people) caused entirely by thickening of a ligament, along with a simple curative operation.

Although Dr. Poletti does not consider his discoveries earth-shaking, he received much gratification from working in a pure clinical setting and helping people who are ill. He loved getting to know people from all walks of life, from prominent members of society to drug addicts and the homeless. He enjoyed operating more than playing tennis. He loved trying, with his “three-dimensional mind,” to come up with new and better ways of doing operations within the skull and spine. The most gratifying experience for him was seeing people the day after surgery and finding that their lives had already improved.

Dr. Poletti believes that in his personal life he has been the recipient of great luck. He believes the evidence of this to be finding his wife at the age of 37, after going on a blind date. He admits, “it took me decades to realize how fortunate I was that she finally agreed to marry me!” Though his marriage has had its growing pains, he and his wife stuck together, working to keep the ever-changing blend of two lives together, benefiting not only the two of them, but also their daughter. He says, “we are each other's closest friend and cherish the peace and tranquility of sharing our lives as deeply committed partners. We've also been blessed by a remarkably wonderful daughter, and now a new son-in-law.”

Dr. Poletti admits that spiritually (this has been only recently), he has reached a deeper level of peace with the world and death by reconciling his agnostic thinking with his inborn belief in nature's higher power. He observes that humans are but a manifestation of the activity of biology, which in extension is a minuscule manifestation of the evolution of the energy and matter of the universe. He believes all of these things are forever beyond the comprehension of man.

In the future Dr. Poletti looks forward to rekindling friendships, spending time with his loving grandchildren, finishing a home a little mountain in the Adirondacks, sharing long periods in nature with close friends, and to peacefully cherish his twilight years with his dear wife.

Dr. Charles E. Poletti
Specializing in Neurosurgery, Brain
Surgery & Research
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