Galen on the Brain: Anatomical Knowledge and Physiological Speculation in the Second Century Ad

Galen on the Brain
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The history of medical education in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, Proc R Soc Med ;12 Suppl— Dobson JF. Herophilus of Alexandria. Proc R Soc Med ;— Infectious diseases, non-zero-sum thinking, and the developing world.

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Am J Med Sci ;— Harris CRS. In: The heart and the vascular system in ancient Greek medicine, from Alcmaeon to Calen. Oxford: Clarendon Press; Evolution of the theory of circulation. Int J Cardiol ;— Lassek AM. In: Human dissection: its drama and struggle. Springfield: Charles C.

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Thomas; Longrigg J. In: Gillespie C, editor. Dictionary of scientific biography. New York: Charles Scribbners Sons; Magner L. In: A history of medicine. Hepatic surgery and hepatic surgical anatomy: historical partners in progress. World J Surg ;— Persaud TVN. In: Early history of human anatomy: from antiquity to the beginning of the modern era. Potter P.

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Herophilus of Chalcedon: an assessment of his place in the history of anatomy. Bull Hist Med ;— Prioreschi P. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

Galen on the brain: anatomical knowledge and physiological speculation in the second century AD.

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Bulletin of the History of Medicine. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Reviewed by:. Julius Rocca. Tullio Manzoni. If you would like to authenticate using a different subscribed institution that supports Shibboleth authentication or have your own login and password to Project MUSE. Additional Information. Project MUSE Mission Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

Since the brain was the centre of the nervous system, there must be a passage from it, via the ventricles, into the cerebellum, for the spiritus animalis. The concept at this time was of three mental functions: the sensus communis, i. Herophilus, who introduced the term, correctly found no rete mirabile in human subjects [[ 18 ], pp. Whereas Galen, who performed no human dissections, concluded from ungulates that the basal network of vessels, the rete mirabile, changed the spiritus vitalis into the spiritus animalis which mediated the brain's functions.

the heart thinks better than the brain?

Herophilus identified at least seven pairs of cranial nerves [[ 8 ], p. Herophilus named the layered meninges that he described as chorioid owing to its resemblance to the chorion surrounding the foetus.

He gave an account of the cerebral ventricles and of the arachnoid membrane lining the ventricles [ 19 ]. Herophilus also dissected the eye, describing its four coats and the optic poros nerve. Herophilus mentioned the different parts of the eye, including the vitreous glass-like humour.

The layer at the back of the eye seemed to him rather like a spider's web. Hence he named it the amphiblestroides latin retina. His dissections also demonstrated the oculomotor, and also trigeminal, facial, vestibulocochlear and hypoglossal nerves [ 5 , 8 ]. On the crown of the head the doublings of the meninges meet, converging and conveying the blood to an empty space like a cistern, which he called the wine press Latin, torcular. He is believed to be one of the first to differentiate nerves from blood vessels in the production of voluntary motion.

Galen in De usu partium corporis humani lib. XII , noted:. This was a power that Galen related to the soul or vital forces, but Herophilus had discerned that nerves convey neural impulses [ 2 , 20 ]. Gerard Blasius , in his Anatome medullae spinalis nervorum was to demonstrate the anterior and posterior spinal roots and to demarcate grey and white matter of the cord.

It was later suggested by Rufus of Ephesus c. However, he thought it was the body of the nerves rather than some faculty or medium, such as psychic or kinetic pneuma that caused movement, - a concept criticised later by Galen [[ 8 ], pp. Considering that Herophilus and Erasistratus worked at a time when neurological understanding was primitive [ 20 ], it is remarkable how much progress they made in anatomy and physiology of the nervous system.

Herophilus always insisted on the primacy of observable phenomena, not as an attitude of the sceptics but as a cautious approach to unproved theories.

He was thus a pioneer in founding the principles of science. His measurements of the pulse show a new attempt to quantify medical observations.

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Lacking significant instruments for physiological experiment, and partly limited by previous prohibitions for dissection, his Promethean advances are even more impressive. Table 1 shows his original anatomical discoveries that underlie much of modern understanding and surgical practice. He was also no stranger to controversy; he sometimes contradicted both Aristotle's dictates and Galen's later brilliant but almost unchallenged opinions. Several terms e. The ethical issues posed by his probable use of vivisection can be explained if not excused, partly by Ptolemaic coercion and by the fact that it was common practice in his time in the quest for new knowledge.

The range and magnitude of his studies justify his title as the Father of Anatomy.

Galen said of him:. Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication.

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