CogniFit's Science blog: The History Of Neuroscience

The History Of Neuroscience

The nervous system is truly remarkable considering everything that it is made up of and responsible for. Even more incredible is the fact that the study of neuroscience dates all the way back to ancient Egypt. Trepanation, which is the surgical practice of drilling or scraping a hole into the skull to cure headaches or mental disorders supposedly dates back to Neolithic times.

Going back to 1700 BC you will find manuscripts that indicate the Egyptians had some knowledge of symptoms of brain injury. In Egypy, the brain was regularly removed in preparation for mummification. While it was long believed the heart was the seat of intelligence, the Herodotus say the first step of mummification involved the brain.

For many years people truly did believe the heart was the source of consciousness….that is until the Hippocrates. They believed solely in the fact that the brain was involved with sensation and intelligence.

You then have to begin looking at Plato, Aristotle and Galen when discussing the history or neuroscience. Plato viewed the brain as the seat of the rational part of the soul while Aristotle believed the heart was the center of intelligence and the brain regulated the amount of heat from the heart.

Galen was a Roman physician to gladiators that found startling evidence at the time. He observed that his patients lost their mental faculties when they sustained damage to their brains.

As you skip ahead hundreds of years, you find studies of the brain became far more sophisticated following the invention of the microscope. This discovery in the late 1890s coupled with the development of a staining procedure by Camillo Golgi truly catapulted neuroscience.

The staining procedure used a silver chromate salt that revealed the intricate structures of individual neurons. This technique led to the formation of the neuron doctrine, which was the hypothesis that the functional unit of the brain is the neuron.

You cannot talk about the brain without mentioning Golgi and Ramon y Cajal, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1906. It was their observations, descriptions and categorizations of neurons throughout the brain that landed them the coveted award.

In more recent time, Alan Lloyd Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley presented a mathematical model in 1952 for transmission of electrical signals in neurons of the giant axon of a squid. Bernard Katz modeled neurotransmission across the space between synapses in 1962. And J.L. Hindmarsh and R.M. Rose continued the model of neurotransmission in 1984.

The history of neuroscience is rich and continues to evolve by the day. Researchers and scientists are consistently doing everything they can to learn more and further develop what is already known about the complex structure of the brain.