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Brain, Mind and Medicine: Essays in Eighteenth-Century Neuroscience

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The idea for a volume on eighteenth-century studies of brain and behavior originated during a joint International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and Theoretical and Experimental Neuropsychology/Neuropsychologie Expérimentale et Théorique (TENNET) symposium held in Montreal in June 2004. We believe that these essays provide unique contemporary insights into the science and medicine of the nervous system, hence “neuroscience,” during the “long” eighteenth century – a century too often given short shrift in textbooks as well as in historical reviews of the nervous system.

The long eighteenth century, which in thematic ways is often perceived as stretching from the 1660s into the opening decades of the 1800s, was an age of transition in the neurosciences. It saw the classic and time-honored ideas of neurophysiology – animal spirits moving in hollow nerve conduits to and from the ventricles of the brain – being gradually replaced by ideas more in accord with anatomical reality. It also saw an enormous increase in interest in the nervous system as the source of many of the ills of both body and mind, along with new therapies. It even saw, at least in the upper strata of polite society, a new and at times even “neurotic” concern for the health and proper functioning of the nervous system. The chapters in this book tell these fascinating stories, and more.

The volume is divided into six sections. After this brief introductory section and chronological table, the second section deals with the background against which work on the nervous system took place. After an overview of the development of ideas about brain and mind during the “long century,” Brian Ford discusses the most revealing of eighteenth-century instruments – so far as anatomy is concerned – the microscope. Next, Jonathan Reinarz reviews the way in which medical education developed in association with the voluntary hospitals movement. Finally, Christopher Gardner- Thorpe uses the life and work of James Parkinson as a lens through which to examine medicine and its milieu during the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

No books have been published on the practice of neuroscience in the eighteenth century, a time of transition and discovery in science and medicine. This volume explores neuroscience and reviews developments in anatomy, physiology, and medicine in the era some call the Age of Reason, and others the Enlightenment. Topics include how neuroscience adopted electricity as the nerve force, how disorders such as aphasia and hysteria were treated, Mesmerism, and more.

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