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Physiologist built a brain scanner in 1882

Posted on Saturday, 23 August, 2014 | Comment icon 3 comments

The device worked by measuring the brain's weight. Image Credit: CC 2.0 Andrew Mason
Angelo Mosso built a device to observe how the brain functioned by weighing a person's head.
Despite the general crudity of his contraption, Mosso's "human circulation balance" machine hit upon some key concepts in neurological science long before the rise of modern medicine.

The device consisted of a special seesaw made from a long wooden plank on which the subject would be carefully balanced so that the mechanism could pick up even the slightest changes in their weight distribution.

"It looks like some kind of medieval torture device," said psychologist David Field. "I mean it's got a big strap to kind of stop the person moving around too much."

The test subject would lie down on the plank and then Mosso would ring a bell with the idea being that the person's brain would need to work harder to process the sound, requiring more blood, which in turn caused the person's head to weight more and thus tip the seesaw in one direction.

According to Mosso's notes the machine worked exactly as he had anticipated.

"We're sort of fascinated by seeing thought, which seems so nonmaterial - seeing it as a material thing," said psychologist Russ Poldrack. "I think people often feel like if they see it on an imaging scan, it's real in a way that it isn't real if it's just being talked about."

Source: | Comments (3)

Tags: Angelo Mosso, Brain

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by OverSword on 23 August, 2014, 19:57
I suppose you have to start somewhere. It's actually a really good idea.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Silent Trinity on 25 August, 2014, 6:08
A rudimentary almost clumsy start to the modern principles of today. They had to start somewhere. Actually quite interesting and somewhat logical they way they went about it.
Comment icon #3 Posted by paperdyer on 25 August, 2014, 16:17
Really a brilliant concept. I wonder how he devised his theory to even suspect that the brain worked harder when stimulated.

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