When was the brain discovered?

This article answers the question “when was the brain discovered?” It will also talk about how the brain came into existence and what we know about the human brain today. In the end, the article will address some frequently asked questions about the brain.

When was the brain discovered?

 Edwin Smith’s Surgical Papyrus made the earliest reference to the brain in the 17th century BC. The papyrus talks about the hieroglyph of the brain and describes the symptoms as well as the diagnosis of the two patients, along with the prognosis, who had fractures in the skull.

In 335 BC, Aristotle suggested that the brain was just a radiator which functioned to keep the heart from overheating. Around 170 BC, Galen, a Roman physician hypothesised that the brain has four ventricles that were responsible for complex thought and determined what the person’s personality and bodily functions are going to be like. 

This was the first suggestion of the brain being a complex organ that controls thought processes and memory formation.

It was Thomas Willis, an English physician, who published “Anatomy of the Brain” in 1664 and Nicolaus Steno, a Danish anatomist who published his lectures on the “Anatomy of the Brain” in 1669 that helped us understand the brain and its functions better.

In 1791, Luigi Galvani suggested that the nervous system requires electrical impulses to control muscle contraction.

In 1848, because of the infamous incident of Phineas Gage, who had an iron rod strike his head and passed through his left frontal lobe, scientists started understanding the many regions of the brain and their importance in controlling specific behaviours. This is because even though he survived, his personality had been altered which suggested that specific brain regions are crucial for certain functions.

This idea gathered more support in the 1860-70s from physicians Paul Broca and Carl Wernicke as they showed that different components of speech are controlled by different brain regions.

Neuroanatomists Santiago RamÓn y Cajal and Camillo Golgi were awarded the 1906 Nobel Prize because they identified that brain cells are the building blocks of the brain and showed that there are different types of brain cells. This led to a revolution in studying neurons and their functions in the brain.

In 1932 Charles Sherrington and Edgar Adrian won the Nobel Prize as they studied synapses which are junctions between neurons and help in establishing neural connections. This helped in advancing the understanding of the central nervous system.

Later Alan Hodgkin, Andrew Huxley and Australian Sir John Eccles were awarded Nobel Prize in 1963 as they showed the communication between neurons through both electrical and chemical signalling.

From the 1960s until now, there has been an explosion in the field of neuroscience research. Scientists have made rapid advances in both understanding the brain and building technologies to better understand the brain in the future.

How Was the Brain Created? 

Fossilization of the brain or other soft tissue of the brain is possible. Scientists can infer, from this data accumulated, that the first brain structure appeared 521 million years ago (Park et al., 2018).

Before the complex evolutionary development of the brain, the simplest form of the nervous system developed in our long-long ancestors. These were known as nerve nets. These nerve nets served as a precursor for the development of more advanced brains. These nerve nets were first observed in Cnidaria and are composed of several neurons that spread out so that they can enable the organism to react or interact with physical contact.

Nerve nets were able to perform rudimentary tasks such as detecting food. However, the nerve nets did not help them detect or find out the source of the stimulus.

Today, however, our body has the richest network of blood vessels that nourish our bodies. When our brain is involved in complex thought processes, it can use upto 50% of the body’s oxygen and fats. In fact, our arteries carry 20-25% of the blood to the brain alone. 

The entire blood vessel network is composed of capillaries and veins along with the arteries. Thus, around 20% of the body’s calories and oxygen is used by the billion cells comprising our brain.

Information About the Human Brain

The brain is comprised of well-specialised areas which work together in unison:

The cortex is in charge of thinking and voluntary movements and is situated in the outermost layer of the brain.

The brainstem is situated between the spinal cord and the brain. It is responsible for the functions of breathing and sleep.

The basal ganglia situated in the centre of the brain is responsible for the coordination of messages between several parts of the brain.

The cerebellum is situated at the base and the back of the brain and is in charge of coordination and balance (Strick et al., 2009). 

The brain is further divided into four lobes (Casillo et al., 2020):

The Frontal Lobe

The frontal lobe is in charge of problem-solving, judgment, decision-making, and motor functions (Stuss & Alexander, 2000).

The Parietal Lobes

The parietal lobes handle sensation, handwriting, as well as the position of the body.

The Temporal Lobes

The temporal lobes are responsible for memory and hearing.

The Occipital Lobes

The occipital lobes include the visual processing system of the brain.

The brain’s memory storage capacity is assumed to be virtually unlimited. The brain contains about 86 billion neurons, which form connections with each other. This adds up to one quadrillion connections or 1,000 trillion connections. These neurons, over time, combine and further increase the storage capacity.

It is important to note that in Alzheimer’s disease, a lot of neurons can get damaged and stop working, resulting in affecting memory.

Brain information can travel up to 268 miles per hour. Neurons, when stimulated, generate electrical impulses which can travel from cell to cell and transmit information. When this process is disrupted, it can cause seizures or epilepsy.

How Much Electricity Does the Brain Use?

The brain works with 20 watts. The human brain generates around 23 watts of power, which is enough to power a lightbulb (Attwell & Iadecola, 2002).

This power calls for the need for rest. Good sleep helps in maintaining the pathways in the brain. Sleep deprivation can increase the accumulation of a protein in the brain which is linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

The brain consists of brain cells called neurons that are responsible for processing and transmitting information in the brain, and from the body to the brain and vice versa. In order to communicate with each other, neurons in the brain use electrical as well as chemicals known as ions. Ions are electrically charged particles that enable neurons to communicate with each other. 

Neurons are thus said to have electrochemical signs consisting of both electrical and chemical charges. These charges change on the basis of whether the neuron is on rest or is active. When the neuron is active, it is either sending a message or receiving it (Furber, 2012). 

Neurons consist of fluids inside them that contain ions. These ions either have a positive or a negative charge. When at rest, the neuron consists of more negative ions on the inside and positive ions on the outside. This gives its membrane a negative charge. 

Whenever there is a signal of brain activity, positive ions rush through the channels into the neuronal membrane. When the charge is strong enough, it starts sending signals to nearby neurons to communicate with them. 

Conclusion

This article answers the question “when was the brain discovered?” It will also talk about how the brain came into existence and what we know about the human brain today. In the end, the article will address some frequently asked questions about the brain.

Frequently Asked Questions: When was the brain discovered?

Are all human behaviours controlled by the brain?

Our behaviours are a result of a complex interplay between hereditary make-up, brain functioning/chemistry, and the environment we grow up in.

Is the brain liquid or solid?

The brain is neither solid nor liquid. A viscoelastic constitutive model describes the brain better.

Can a person live without a brain?

No. The brain controls all vital functioning required to live. These functions include breathing, swallowing, digestion, heartbeat, and eye movements. Without these functions, we cease to exist.

Reference

Hosseini-Farid, M., Ramzanpour, M., Ziejewski, M., & Karami, G. (2019). A compressible hyper-viscoelastic material constitutive model for human brain tissue and the identification of its parameters. International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics, 116, 147-154.

Willis, T. (1965). Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves: Volumes 1 & 2. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP.

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