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The Machine That Tried To Scan The Brain — In 1882

www.npr.org Published: August 17, 2014

Everyone points to the Wright Brothers as the inventors of human flight. But centuries earlier, it was Leonardo da Vinci who recognized how birds used concepts like lift and wing shape to glide high above us.


Now scientists have uncovered new details about the man you might call "the da Vinci" of modern brain science. He was a physiologist named Angelo Mosso who lived in Italy during the 19th century, and until several years ago his manuscripts were mostly collecting dust in the archives of an Italian university.


Inside the manuscripts, researchers found sketches of a contraption built in 1882: the first machine designed to watch the brain at work. It didn't resemble modern brain scanners in any sense.


"It looks like some kind of medieval torture device. I mean it's got a big strap to kind of stop the person moving around too much," says David Field, a psychologist at the University of Reading and an expert on Mosso's machine, called the "human circulation balance."



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