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TU Berlin

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Some Traditional Chinese Descriptions of the Functional Organization of the Brain

Wolfgang Behr (International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, Netherlands)

The first explicit differentiation of cognition and perception in the West is usually attributed to Alkmaion of Kroton (late 6th century b.c.). Aristotle and Theophrastos, among others, credit the Pythagorean philosopher and physician with the earliest Greek description of brain functions and the nerval system, based on the analysis of his own surgical experiences.

First crude ideas on cerebral functions and neuranatomy in China can be traced back to the Suwen 媬动 and Lingshu 蔹漲 sections of the Huangdi Neijing 缲斑�篇 (cf. Zhang 1980) and will be translated and discussed in this study. In a second step I will follow the development of pre-modern Chinese medical statements on brain organization, culminating in the quite detailed and sophisticated descriptions recorded in Wang Qingren's �醃�� Yilin Gaicuo 玲俿蓅� of 1830.

Focussing on the history of Chinese concepts of laterality, handedness and cortical mapping of perceptional functions, I will explore the question of whether experimentally attested differences in laterality preferences for Chinese and Americans (Dean, Rattan & Hua 1987) are reflected in the indigeneous Chinese medical literature. Finally some of the philosophical and epistomological underpinnings of Chinese theories of knowledge (Harbsmeier 1993) and their interrelation with medical concepts of brain organization will be outlined.

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