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ISSN: Print -2349-0977, Online - 2349-4387
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 56-61

Ancient roots, gestational phase, and modern epoch of neurosurgery

Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Imaging, Safdarjung Hospital and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Yatish Agarwal
Department of Diagnostic Radiology and Imaging, Safdarjung Hospital and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, New Delhi - 110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2349-0977.131864

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The chronicles of modern neuroscience are filled with extraordinary romanticism. The triumphant, even if turbulent, journey is punctuated by man's abstract out-of-the-box thinking, audacity, amazing flashes of brilliance, courage, inventiveness, sagacity, and serendipity. The journey began with trepanation, or cutting holes in the skull. The first skull operations were carried out by Neolithic Peruvian Indians around 10,000 bc. Down the centuries the procedure was embraced by preliterate world all over mother earth. Even today, through the ubiquitous e-space, charlatans advocate trepanation for "enhancing consciousness"! The first musings that different types of head injury produce different symptoms stand engraved in gold in the Egyptian Edwin Smith surgical papyrus (1,600 bc). That the human brain-and not the heart-is the motherboard of all cognition and emotion, and seat of sensation, movement, and mentation came to be known only when the prince of physicians, Galen of Pergamum carried out his classical squealing hog experiments in the 2nd century. Nevertheless, it was not until the work of the great neuroanatomist Ramσn y Cajal (1852-1934) and that of the founder of modern neurophysiology Lord E. D. Adrian (1889-1977), that modern neuroscience found its terra firma. The more recent era, however, has witnessed a truly remarkable technological advancement. If the works of Sir Godfrey N. Hounsfield, Allan M. Cormack and Raymond Damadian have pried open the lid on human brain and spine through true-to-life cross-sectional anatomical and functional imaging, Leksell and Larsson's gamma knife, Russel Brown's stereotactic surgery, laparoscopes, brain suites, synthetic discs and pleuripotent stem cells have opened totally new vistas in the realm of neurosurgery. Given the diktat of space, capturing all the magical moments of this evolution is willy-nilly impossible. Yet, if this story narrates the essence of how a few men-in-white faced the rigours of their times and triumphed over the challenges, the scalpel would have found its mark.

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