How the decoding of the human brain began PDF (Adobe DRM) download by Virginie Scheffler

How the decoding of the human brain began

GRIN Verlag
Publication date: January 2005
ISBN: 9783638378529
Digital Book format: PDF (Adobe DRM)

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People have always been interested in the human brain and mind. In the past, mental illness was considered a disease of personal or spiritual failing. Lunatics were regarded as incurable, subhuma n creatures, more animal than humanlike. They were thought to be possessed by evil spirits, under the spell of witchcraft or simply influenced by the moon. The mentally ill were despised and feared by society. Therefore, they were locked in almshouses or prisons. This catastrophic situation began to change at the beginning of 19th century when mapping of the functional areas of the brain first began and understanding of the causes of conditions such as epilepsy improved. Basic knowledge of the brain and nervous functions came mainly from studies of animals, neurosurgery, post-mortem examinations and the analysis of human nerve cells under the microscope. However, in many cases, physicians used drugs as well as torture- like treatments such as electroshock therapy, insulin shock therapy (which induced comas in patients by the injection of insulin), Metrazol (induced seizures), hydrotherapy (such as the wet sheet pack, the continuous bath), fever therapy and lobotomy. Professionals hoped that these largely experimental treatments would help the mentally ill patient. Moreover, many new inventions like the development of electroencephalography (EEG) helped to diagnose neurological diseases such as tumors and infections. Besides, numberless works of important neuroscientists such as Paul Pierre Broca or Karl Wernicke helped to show that areas of the brain have specific functions. Neurotransmitters were discovered and investigated by many scientists, including for example Otto Loewi. Later techniques, such as brain imaging allowed scientists to study the brain in living humans and animals in ways that their predecessors could not.
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