There is much debate as to when societies started considering the functions of different organs. Many times, bodily functions were approached from a religious point of view and abnormalities were blamed on bad spirits and fundamentals of neuropsychology pdf gods. The brain has not always been considered the center of the functioning body.
It has taken hundreds of years to develop our understanding of the brain and how it affects our behaviors. The study of the brain can be linked all the way back to around 3500 B. Imhotep took a more scientific, rather than magical, approach to medicine and disease. His writings contain intricate information on different forms of trauma, abnormalities, and remedies of the time to serve as reference to future physicians, as well as a very detailed account of the brain and the rest of the body. Egyptians preferred to look at the heart as the ‘seat of the soul’. The brain exercises the greatest power in the man”.
Apart from moving the focus from the heart as the “seat of the soul” to the brain, Hippocrates did not go into much detail about its actual functioning. However, by switching the attention of the medical community to the brain, the doors were opened to a more scientific discovery of the organ responsible for our behaviors. For years to come, scientists were inspired to explore the functions of the body and to find concrete explanations for both normal and abnormal behaviors. Scientific discovery led them to believe that there were natural and organically occurring reasons to explain various functions of the body, and it could all be traced back to the brain. Over the years, science would continue to expand and the mysteries of the world would begin to make sense, or at least be looked at in a different way. Often, Descartes’ ideas were looked upon as overly philosophical and lacking in sufficient scientific background.
Still deeply rooted in a spiritual outlook towards the scientific world, the body was said to be mortal, and the soul immortal. The pineal gland was then thought to be the very place at which the mind would interact with the mortal and machine-like body. This idea that the mind essentially had control over the body, but man’s body could resist or even influence other behaviors was a major turning point in the way many physiologists would look at the brain. These ideas, although disregarded by many and cast aside for years led the medical community to expand their own ideas of the brain and begin to understand in new ways just how intricate the workings of the brain really were, and the complete effects it had on daily life, as well, which treatments would be the most beneficial to helping those people living with a dysfunctional mind. The mind-body problem, spurred by René Descartes, continues to this day with many philosophical arguments both for and against his ideas. However controversial they were and remain today, the fresh and well-thought-out perspective Descartes presented has had long-lasting effects on the various disciplines of medicine, psychology and much more, especially in putting an emphasis on separating the mind from the body in order to explain observable behaviors. It was in the mid-17th century that another major contributor to the field of neuropsychology emerged.
Oxford University and took a physiological approach to the brain and behavior. It was Willis who coined the words ‘hemisphere’ and ‘lobe’ when referring to the brain. He was one of the earliest to use the words ‘neurology’ and ‘psychology’. Rejecting the idea that humans were the only beings capable of rational thought, Willis looked at specialized structures of the brain.
He theorized that higher structures accounted for complex functions, whereas lower structures were responsible for functions similar to those seen in other animals, consisting mostly of reactions and automatic responses. He was particularly interested in people who suffered from manic disorders and hysteria. His research constituted some of the first times that psychiatry and neurology came together to study individuals. Through his in-depth study of the brain and behavior, Willis concluded that automated responses such as breathing, heartbeats and other various motor activities were carried out within the lower region of the brain. Although much of his work has been made obsolete, his ideas presented the brain as more complex than previously imagined, and led the way for future pioneers to understand and build upon his theories, especially when it came to looking at disorders and dysfunctions of the brain. He theorized that personality was directly related to features and structures within the brain.
This new discipline looked at the brain as an organ of the mind, where the shape of the skull could ultimately determine one’s intelligence and personality. Gall looked primarily at the brain. There was much debate over the validity of Gall’s claims however, because he was often found to be wrong in his predictions. He was once sent a cast of René Descartes’ skull, and through his method of phrenology claimed the subject must have had a limited capacity for reasoning and higher cognition. As controversial and false as many of Gall’s claims were, his contributions to understanding cortical regions of the brain and localized activity continued to advance understanding of the brain, personality, and behavior. His work is considered crucial to having laid a firm foundation in the field of neuropsychology, which would flourish over the next few decades.
Towards the late 19th century, the belief that the size of ones skull could determine their level of intelligence was discarded as science and medicine moved forward. Gall and took a closer look at the idea of distinct cortical regions of the brain each having their own independent function. Bouillaud was specifically interested in speech and wrote many publications on the anterior region of the brain being responsible for carrying out the act of ones speech, a discovery that had stemmed from the research of Gall. He was also one of the first to use larger samples for research although it took many years for that method to be accepted.
By looking at over a hundred different case studies, Bouillaud came to discover that it was through different areas of the brain that speech is completed and understood. By observing people with brain damage, his theory was made more concrete. Bouillaud, along with many other pioneers of the time made great advances within the field of neurology, especially when it came to localization of function. Through his study, it was discovered and expanded upon that we articulate via the left hemisphere. Broca’s observations and methods are widely considered to be where neuropsychology really takes form as a recognizable and respected discipline.