The second quarter of the 19th century was a period where young neuroscience was ripe for a sucession of seminal discoveries about the brain.  In Great Britain, Italy, Germany and France, new and exciting lines of research were being pursued. By the start of the next century, they would begin to converge into a powerful scientific synthesis of our knowledge about this most complex organ.

The search for localization of nervous and mental function received a mighty push by Pierre Flourens, a distinguished French physiologist, who, in his quest to disallow Franz Joseph Gall ´s equivocal ideas about localization , was able to prove, from 1825 to 1827, that the main divisions of the brain were, indeed, responsible for quite different functions.

In another field of inquiry, Carlo Mateucci, Emil du Bois-Reymond, Julius Bernstein and their followers were using increasingly sophisticated physical apparatuses , toward the end of the 1850s, to investigate the electrical nature of nerve impulses and the new model of functioning of the nervous system. This model had, by the able hands of Luigi Galvani , substituted the old vitalistic, "animal spirits", hydraulic model, respected since the ancient Greek philosophers , and of which the philosopher René Descartes was the most recent and notable proponent.


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