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Aristotle believed that the purpose of the brain was to cool heated blood. A generation later Herophilius challenged this notion and identified the brain as the seat of intelligence. Aristotles opinion prevailed for over two thousand years. After all, who ever heard of Herophilius?It was not until 1664 that Thomas Willis, that most eminent of British physicians, published Cerebri Anatome, a treatise declaring, among other things, that nerves emanated from the brain. Hence, it has only been three centuries since learned scholars began to appreciate the importance of the brain.
Since 1990, we have, by presidential decree, been living in The Decade of the Brain. (Does that mean that we have less than five years to go before we enter The Decade of the Pancreas?) As we all know, NEUROSCIENCE encompasses a number of disciplines, formerly diverse, to include biochemistry, physiology, clinical medicine, physics, computer science, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and electrical engineering. The breadth of neuroscientific investigation at Harvard College is reflected in the research interests of its undergraduates. For example, Laurie Santos 97, a Psychology concentrator, studies primate animal cognition. She is investigating the cognitive precursors of a Theory of Mind in cotton-top tamarins, a new world monkey. Josh McDermott 98, a Cognitive Science concentrator, is using functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the neural activity underlying auditory processing during sleep. Vikaas Sohal 97, an Applied Mathematics concentrator, uses methods of computational neuroscience to model patterns of activity of neurons in inferotemporal cortex as they respond to visual stimuli.
With the advent of Harvards Mind, Brain, and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, it is
anticipated that a more constructive dialogue will be enjoyed by scientists and
humanists. This edition of The Harvard Brain, demonstrates the contribution of Harvard
undergraduates to that dialogue.
Amy Herman '97
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Copyright © 1996 by the Harvard Undergraduate Society for Neuroscience.
Revised: 10 May 1996