Cerebral localization in antiquity

  • Rose F
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Abstract

Fragments of neurology can be found in the oldest medical writings in antiquity. Recognizable cerebral localization is seen in Egyptian medical papyri. Most notably, the Edwin Smith papyrus describes hemiplegia after a head injury. Similar echoes can be seen in Homer, the Bible, and the pre-Hippocratic writer Alcmaeon of Croton. While Biblical writers thought that the heart was the seat of the soul, Hippocratic writers located it in the head. Alexandrian anatomists described the nerves, and Galen developed the ventricular theory of cognition whereby mental functions are classified and localized in one of the cerebral ventricles. Medieval scholars, including the early Church Fathers, modified Galenic ventricular theory so as to make it a dynamic model of cognition. Physicians in antiquity subdivided the brain into separate areas and attributed to them different functions, a phenomenon that connects them with modern neurologists.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Alexandrian neurology
  • Cerebral localization
  • Egyptian medicine
  • Greco-Roman medicine
  • Medieval neurology
  • Ventricular

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Authors

  • F. Clifford Rose

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