Ancient Neuroscience: Doctors in the Ancient Near East and the Entity That Reasons and Speaks.
This article examines how people of the Ancient Near East thought about that aspect of the human that reasons and speaks. The earliest records of ancient Mesopotamia show that people believed this entity survived death, but no attempt was made to localize this entity within the living body. The ancient Egyptians developed a more nuanced theory, dividing this entity into two: one moved the body, including the speech musculature, and the other reasoned. The latter stayed with the dead body during embalming and mummification, but then departed for the afterlife. The great thinkers of classical Greece posited that the elements within the body that thought and produced movement consisted of a single entity. Many Greeks, including Aristotle, thought that this speaking entity was located within the chest. Greeks in the city of Alexandria translated theory into observation; they observed that paralysis immediately followed the cutting of a nerve. The final chapter in ancient neurology was recorded by the Greek physician Galen who showed that a lesion of the chest could only affect speech if it damaged the recurrent laryngeal nerve. This nerve originated from the brain, passed down into the chest, and then returned to innervate the voice box. Galen proved that speech and rationality were functions of the human brain. **********