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Critics of localization protaganists can acuse them of oversimplification and being merely updated versions of erroneous medieval neurophysiology.

The reference for this is Clark and Dewhust's "Illustrated history of brain function" (1972: Senate House, p.34; 2nd edition, 1996 is on short loan at BBK at 612.82Cla)

A very early (1347) reference is Avicenna.

the most popular portrayal of the medieval doctine of localization was published in 1503 by Gregor Reisch, a Carthusian prior of Freiburg.

Many different versions of this figure are discussed by Clark and Dewhurst (1972/1996) the most recent being one published in 1840 by an author (Blumenbach) sympathetic to phrenology.

A 1523 version. |   The Blumenbach (1840) version.

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The sensory nerves all go to the same place, “Common Sense” and there is a second stage of cognition and estimation and a third stage of memory. Arguably this should count as a theory of the localization of cognitive functions in the brain, but two major aspects are wrong
  • it is an important part of modern knowledge that the sensory nerves all go to different places initially.
  • the medievalists identified cogntive function with the fluid-filled brain ventricles rather than the cerebral cortex.

The most elaborate version is due to Fludd (1619)

A major advance occurred when Thomas Willis (1664) attributed cognitive functions to the cortex, the corpus callosum and the corpus striatum (basal ganglia) rather than the ventricles. Descartes (1662) had earlier in the century published more anatomically accurate diagrams of the brain, such as this drawing.

Willis identified the basal ganglia as the "sensus communis", white matter between the basal ganglia and the cortex with "imagination" and cerebral cortex with "memory".
He also distinguished between the control of voluntary actions by the cerebrum and vital reflexes and involuntary action by the cerebellum


Other landmarks in the 16th and 17th centuries are listed below.

1504 - Leonardo da Vinci produces wax cast of human ventricles
1536 - Nicolo Massa describes the cerebrospinal fluid
1543 - Andreas Vesalius discusses pineal gland and draws the corpus striatum
1562 - Bartolomeo Eustachio publishes "The Examination of the Organ of Hearing"
1583 - Felix Platter states that the lens only focuses light
1586 - A. Piccolomini distinguishes between cortex and white matter
1587 - Giulio Cesare Aranzi describes ventricles and hippocampus
1590 - Zacharias Janssen invents the compound microscope
1604 - Johannes Kepler describes inverted retinal image
1609 - J. Casserio publishes first description of mammillary bodies
1649 - Rene Descartes describes pineal as control center of body and mind
1662 - Rene Descartes "De homine" is published (He died in 1650)
1663 - Fancois Sylvius describes the "Sylvian Fissure"
1664 - Thomas Willis publishes "Cerebri anatome"
1665 - Robert Hooke details his first microscope
1668 - l'Abbe Edme Mariotte discovers the blind spot
1673 - Joseph DuVerney uses experimental ablation technique in pigeons
1684 - Raymond Vieussens uses boiling oil to harden the brain

There is a longer list of historical landmarks wwwgif, which is not of current relevance.

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