A history of ideas about the brain

Being Human has an excellent article on how ideas about the function of the brain have evolved over the centuries.

The piece is by respected science writer Carl Zimmer who wrote a fantastic book on the dawn of modern neuroscience called Soul Made Flesh.

This new article is a whistle stop tour of how our ideas about the brain have changed over the last three millennia:

For all the cognitive power that the human brain contains, it’s also exquisitely delicate. It has the consistency of custard. When an ancient anatomist decided to investigate the organs of a cadaver, he would have had no trouble pulling out the heart and manipulating its rugged chambers and valves. But after death, the brain’s enzymes make quick work of it. By the time the anatomist had sawed open the skull, he might well be looking at nothing but blush-colored goo. Who could ever think that in that goo could be found anything having to do with our very selves?

The site it’s written for, Being Human, seems to be a think tank funded social network and blogging platform for human nature geeks.

I’m not sure we need another topic specific social networking platform, most of which suffer from the fact people can’t be bothered to reconstruct the cliques they have from existing general purpose platforms (i.e. life), but it does seem to be filling up with interesting content (i.e. ideas).

Link to ‘From Cooling System to Thinking Machine’.

2 thoughts on “A history of ideas about the brain”

  1. Lisa Randall talks about those kind of emergent properties, she compares the ingredients of a souffle (eggs, sugar, chocolate, etc)to the souffle itself. So as science goes through those changes trying to connect the units to the whole. So with brain science it’s more about the electrical and chemical impulses. Knocking on Heaven’s Door – that’s Randall’s book – talks about those types of “fractals” (in physics discoveries) and how they’ve evolved over time.

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