Vol. 15 nº 2 - Apr/May/Jun de 2021
History Note Páginas: 281 a 285

DESCARTES and his project of a fantasized brain

Authors Eliasz Engelhardt1,2


keywords: Descartes, brain, pineal gland, animal spirits, microscopy.

Interest in anatomy dates from the earliest times. Such knowledge was acquired through dissections of animals and human corpses by many researchers. The macroscopic anatomy of the varied structures of the brain were identified over the centuries, and the predominating solid substance was seen as amorphous, and devoid of any specific function, until the Renaissance. René Descartes, a personage with a brilliant and creative mind, conceived the brain, its structure and function, in a distinct manner to what was known at his time. He valued the solid matter and gave it, for the first time, a theoretical minute structure, related to a presumptive function based on the presence of the pineal gland and the animal spirits, underlying cognitive, sensory and motor activities. Such structural view was endorsed, in a given sense, by the microscopic findings of Marcello Malpighi, which begun to change the understanding of the nervous system.


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