The Opposing Thumb

An opinionated digit leafs through the biological literature
Media Roundup

A Brief History of the Mind


Neurologist  Oliver Sacks & humble earthworm, by Madalena Parreira.

Oliver Sacks runs through the natural history of mental life, from illuminated worms to electric carnivorous plants. Along the way, we encounter the young Father of the Neuron, who abandons it for other pursuits, probably contributing to this cell’s notorious behavioral issues:

‘Freud was able to show and illustrate, in meticulous, beautiful drawings, that the nerve cells in crayfish were basically similar to those of lampreys—or human beings.

And he grasped, as no one had before, that the nerve cell body and its processes—dendrites and axons—constituted the basic building blocks and the signaling units of the nervous system. Eric Kandel (…) speculates that if Freud had stayed in basic research instead of going into medicine, perhaps he would be known today as “a co-founder of the neuron doctrine, instead of as the father of psychoanalysis.”’


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