PSYC 410 Lecture Notes - Insomnia, Cognitive Deficit, Degenerative Disease
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The Origins of Neuroscience
Evidence suggests that even our prehistoric ancestors appreciated that the brain was vital to life
o There are archeological records with examples of hominid skulls bearing signs of fatal
o As early as 7000 years ago, people were boring holes in other’s skulls in attempts to
cure headaches and disorders as they assumed it was a method to allow evil spirits to
depart from the brain
Recovered writings from physicians of Ancient Egypt indicate that they were well aware of many
symptoms of brain damage.
o However, it was the heart that was considered to be the seat of the soul and the
repository of memories.
Views of the Brain in Ancient Greece
o Hippocrates (460 – 379 B.C.), the father of western medicine, stated his belief that the
brain only was involved in sensation but also was the seat of intelligence.
o Not universally accepted.
o Aristotle still believed that the heart was the center of intellect and believed the brain
was a radiator for cooling the blood that was overheated by the heart.
Views of the Brain During the Roman Empire
o Greek physician and writer Galen embraced the Hippocratic view of the brain function
o His views were influenced by the many sheep brains he had dissected
o Two major parts are evident in a sheep brain: the cerebrum (front) and the cerebellum
o He assumed that the soft cerebrum was responsible for memory, receiving sensation
and that the cerebellum is responsible for commanding muscle movement
o Also saw many ventricles in the brain and assumed the old the theory of four vital fluids
(humors) responsible for movements was correct.
Views of the Brain From the Renaissance to the Nineteenth Century
o Galen’s view prevailed for nearly 1500 years
o The notion that fluid is used to pump the muscles was still prevalent
o A chief advocate of this fluid-mechanical theory was Rene Descartes.
o However, he also reasoned that unlike animals, humans possess intellect and a God-
He proposed that the brain mechanisms for a human are similar to that of a
beast only to a certain extent.
He believed that the mind is a spiritual entity that receives sensations and
commands movements by communicating with the machinery of the brain via
the pineal gland.
o Scientists began to break away from Galen’s views
o On closer observations, the brain was noticed to have gray and white matter
White matter, because it was continuous with the nerves of the body, was
correctly believed to contain the fibers that bring information to and from the
o By the end of the eighteenth century, the nervous system had been completely dissected
and scientists realized that it has a central division, consisting of a brain and spinal cord, and
a peripheral division with networks of nerves that course through the body.