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a history of the brain

In this three-hour session, we will present a fascinating historical overview of our quest to understand the structure and function of the human brain. It will be of  particular interest and use to students reading neuroscience and psychology, but also to students of philosophy and history.


Beginning with MesoAmerican trephination, ca 1500 BCE, and the 1862 discovery of what became known as the Edwin Smith papyrus, dated to around 1600 BCE, we will focus on how we came to think of the brain as the seat of mind and behaviour. We will consider achievements in understanding of neuroanatomy made by the likes of Rhazes during the Islamic Golden Age and the fusing of medieval Islamic medicine with Indian and Asian tradition. We will review the relative contributions of Descartes' Meditationes de Prima Philosophia, Andreas Vesalius and his De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libir Septem,  Harvey and The Divine Banquet of the Brayne, and Pratensis' De Cerebri Morbis to understanding of neuroanatomy and neurological disease. We study developments in 17th,18th and 19th century neuroanatomy and meet important figures along the way. As we accelerate into 20th century science we will discuss how we came to learn about the nerve cells, synapses and electrical impulses that underpin the behaviours of many animals. In the final part of this tutorial, we examine recent developments in neuroscience, from new techniques in microscopy and genetics, to functional brain imaging, connectomics and computer-brain interfaces. The history of the brain is a wonderful, beautiful history of science, medicine, humanity and the desire to understand who and why we are.

For further information and a programme, please email Dr Guy Sutton at  the address in the footer below.

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