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History of the Brain
Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes.

Rene Descartes, a French philosopher and mathematician, proposes the idea that the brain functions like a machine.
He claims that the nerves are filled with "animal spirits" that carry motor and sensory information to the ventricles of the brain much in the same way that hydraulic fluid travels through machines. Yet despite his belief that the hydraulic fluid movement theory explains brain function and behavior in animals, he concludes that it can not account for some of the higher mental faculties found in man such as intellect and emotion. Instead, he argues for a dualistic system in which the organ of the brain is distinguished from the immaterial "mind." In his view, it is the mind, not the brain, which contains a person's thoughts and desires or "soul." He also concludes that the pineal gland acting as a valve controls the flow of information to the body or mind.


Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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