History of Neuroscience and Neuroethics: Introduction

  • Frank W. Stahnisch
Reference work entry


The neurosciences have a long and fascinating history – one in which the bodily organ of the brain and its connection to theories about the soul and mind have triggered the interest of natural philosophers, physicians, researchers, as well as laypeople from ancient times to the modern period. As such, the history of the neurosciences – along with the recent history of neuroethics – incorporates wide perspectives from the history of philosophy and theology, the history of science and medicine, along with social, political, and cultural histories. This section will introduce the reader to several major topics in the complex history of ideas, theories, and neuroethical approaches to the structure and function of the brain and spinal cord. It first explores our modern knowledge about inflammatory and degenerative diseases of the brain, before eighteenth- to twentieth-century developments in basic neuroanatomy and neurophysiology are discussed. Mental health issues are also examined. There follows a description of the emergence of neurological surgery as a discipline towards the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, touching upon the particular new ethical problems presented by operational manipulative and surgical approaches. The final two chapters explore the development of insulin and electroshock therapies, the history of new psycho- and neuropharmacological drugs since the 1950s, and the recent emergence of neuroimaging technologies – such as computer tomography (CT), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and positron emission tomography (PET). Their impact on the modern basic and clinical neurosciences will be described as well.


Deep Brain Stimulation Ethical Problem Patient Autonomy Ethical Perspective Clinical Neuroscience 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Community Health Sciences and Department of HistoryHotchkiss Brain Institute/Institute for Public Health, The University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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