CogniFit's Science blog: Neuroscience – Summary and Historical Highlights

Neuroscience – Summary and Historical Highlights

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord and nerves throughout the body. It is viewed as a branch of biology. However in recent years it has taken on other roles with links to other disciplines.

Neuroscience uses and leverages chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics, and medicine among others. We’ll discuss this interesting field further and touch on some historical highlights concerning its study.

The formal study of the nervous system dates all the way back to ancient Egypt. There was also evidence of trepanation, which was the surgical technique of drilling a hole into the skull with the intent of curing headaches, various mental disorders or relieving cranial pressure. This dated back to Neolithic times and has also been in various cultures throughout history.

There is evidence in manuscripts dating from 1700BC that the Egyptians understood some of the symptoms of brain damage.

For quite a long while, many cultures believed that the heart was the center of intelligence. But this notion began to be challenged in Ancient Greece. The doctor and scientist Hippocrates believed that the brain was not only involved in senses since many sensory organs were located near it but that it was also the seat of intelligence.

Plato also accepted the view that the brain was the center of intelligence although Aristotle held the belief that the heart was the center of intelligence and that the brain primarily served to cool the head.

This view was largely accepted until the Roman physician Galen who was a follower of Hippocrates noted that his patients lost some of their mental faculties if they suffered a blow to the head or other brain damage.

There is evidence of medical problems, which were attributed to the brain from the early Muslim world. A number of important European scientists such as Vesalius and Rene Descartes during the early and late 1500’s made important contributions to neuroscience.

The invention of the microscope played a very important role in the study of brain tissue and nerve cells. A staining procedure developed by Camillo Golgi made it possible to discern extensive details in the neurons such as ganglia, axons, and dendrites.

These studies played a major role in the development of the neuron doctrine which indicated that the most functional unit of the brain are the neurons.

This neuron doctrine was largely supported by extensive studies from other scientists throughout the world over many years. The study of neuroscience continued to evolve with new techniques and sophisticated equipment. It has helped to greatly improve our understanding of the nervous system and will continue to increase our knowledge.