THE GREEKS AND THE BRAIN
THE GREEKS were the first to begin to Recgnize the brain’s paramount status. About 2,500 years ago, a Pythagorean philosopher named ALCMAEON of Croton Favored the head over the heart as the home of sensory awareness. Consciousness arose in the brain, he said. ALCMAEON is reported to have peered into the skull of a dead animal after removing the eyes. He speculated on the possibility of life-giving spirits moving through open channels in the body, such as those he saw leading backward from the eye cavities.
However, he probably did little to examine the human brain directly, given the Greek taboo against dissection.
Hippocrates (circa 460 B.c.-377 B.C.) took a similar view of the brain’s importance a half century later. “The eyes and ears and tongue and hands and feet do whatsoever the brain determines,” he wrote. “It is the brain that is the messenger to the understanding [and] the brain that interprets the understanding.” Furthermore, the brain gives rise to joys, sorrows, GRIEFS, and all other.
HISTORICALLY, GREAT thinkers have placed the mind-sometimes referred to as the soul or the psyche-at various places in the human body. Some candidates across time:
- Aristotle: The heart. It’s in the center of the body and is the first organ to be discerned in an embryo.
- Thomas Aquinas: The ventricles, or empty spaces, of the brain. Being pure spirit, it survives beyond death.
- Rene Descartes: The pineal gland.
Hippocrates saw the brain as the potential generator of madness, depression, and other illnesses. He believed that four “humors”-black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm-governed the body’s health, as well as imbalances that led to illness.
The brain was phlegm, he said, and if it became too wet its condition might lead to disorders such as epilepsy.