Brain Research in Roman Times, Ancient Asia, and the Middle Ages:

What was it like to do brain research in Ancient Rome, Asia, and the Middle Ages? Read below to find out.

Ancient Roman brain research was found in 170 B.C. when Galen, a physician to the Roman gladiators, made the proposal that the brain was a glandular organ that contained fluids. 

He also stated that the important mental functions such as memory, emotion, senses and cognition are found in the ventricles of the human brain. In 177 B.C., Galen wrote a lecture on the brain (Mangiardi, Kane, 1998). 

In Ancient Asia, a physician by the name of Galenus of Pergamon lived in Turkey. He was a brain surgeon and the physician of Paul of Aegina.

He was followed by Abu Bekr Muhammed el Razi who was known as the greatest brain surgeon of the time. There was also an Islamic school of brain surgery that was popular from 800-1200 A.D.(Mangiardi, 1999).      

Moving forward to the Middle Ages, we find a time that anatomy study was banned by the Catholic church. Despite this ban we find hundreds of accurate anatomical sketches from Leonardo Da Vinci’s portfolio. Leonardo also produced a wax cast of the brain’s ventricles (DaVinci,1970).

Despite the churches mandated restrictions on the study of anatomy, primitive brain surgery continues to be performed by  “barbers” of the day.

These “barbers” roamed the countryside in order to find those in need of removal of the “stone of madness” or “Pierre de Follie” from the skulls of the mentally ill. These were not the true surgeons at the time. True surgeons were with the church and did not study the research of anatomy for fear of the church’s punishment.

Many years will have to pass before brain research resumes by true surgeons (Kingsley, 1996).    

The History of the Brain in the Renaissance / Beginnings of Lobotomy and Neuroscience

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