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Your history

What are the most important events in the history of neuroscience? Opinions will vary, but a good place to arm yourself with some of the relevant knowledge is Eric Chudler's 'Milestones in Neuroscience Research'. The bulk of the site comprises a straightforward chronological list of key events in the history of neuroscience, with links to biographies of many of the main thinkers that have shaped the field.

According to Chudler, the history of neuroscience can be traced right back to 4000 bc, when the euphoriant effect of the poppy plant was first recorded. However, it was not until around 2,000 years later that the legendary Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus — thought to be the earliest written record of the nervous system (and to include the first documented use of the word 'brain') — was produced. It is also interesting to read that the great philosopher Aristotle was convinced that the heart was the seat of human intelligence, even though the likes of Plato and Hippocrates were already on the right track many years earlier.

As Chudler readily admits, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are some notable omissions. For example, developmental neuroscience is hardly covered at all — not even Spemann and Mangold's seminal work on neural induction gets a mention. Nevertheless, the site is informative, and it includes links to sites on a diverse range of neuroscience-related subjects, including the history of phrenology, and a chronology of psychoactive substance use.

After all that, anyone seeking some light relief (and a little subliminal learning, perhaps) might like to try out the word-search puzzles that feature the names of key neuroscientists through the ages!l


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Wood, H. Your history. Nat Rev Neurosci 3, 86 (2002).

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