The ventricles were observed by the influential Hellenistic physician and anatomist, Galen of Bergama (129–216 ad) and became known as ‘cells’. They were the central feature of a theory of brain function that was endorsed by the medieval philosophers and Fathers of the Christian Church, and which remained dominant until the eighteenth century. The clear fluid within the cells, which was thought to be a distillate of blood and inhaled air, was called ‘animal spirit’ (from the Latin anima: ‘mind’), because it was supposed to be the seat of behavioural and mental functions. Information carried by nerves from the sense organs was said to enter the fluid of the first cell (the lateral ventricles), where it gave rise to sensations. This cell communicated with the middle cell (the third ventricle), which was responsible for ‘imagination’ and ‘estimation’, and the fluid then passed into the final cell (the fourth ventricle), which was concerned with memory and the control of movement. Although this hypothesis is, of course, totally discredited, it is interesting that it was essentially mechanistic (rather than mystical) and it incorporated a principle that is clearly established by modern neuroscience, namely that the nervous system processes sensory information to provide the basis of thoughts, memories, and actions.
Laurence Garey, and Colin Blakemore
See also brain; cerebrospinal fluid; hydrocephalus.
"cerebral ventricles." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cerebral-ventricles
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