After providing all the funding for The Brain from Top to Bottom for over 10 years, the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction informed us that because of budget cuts, they were going to be forced to stop sponsoring us as of March 31st, 2013.

We have approached a number of organizations, all of which have recognized the value of our work. But we have not managed to find the funding we need. We must therefore ask our readers for donations so that we can continue updating and adding new content to The Brain from Top to Bottom web site and blog.

Please, rest assured that we are doing our utmost to continue our mission of providing the general public with the best possible information about the brain and neuroscience in the original spirit of the Internet: the desire to share information free of charge and with no adverstising.

Whether your support is moral, financial, or both, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Bruno Dubuc, Patrick Robert, Denis Paquet, and Al Daigen

Monday, 3 September 2012
The beginning of modern neurosurgery

Probably the oldest form of neurosurgery is trepanation, which consisted in drilling a hole in the skull to allow evil spirits to escape from the brain. For example, scientists have found the skull of a young girl who was trepanned with a flint instrument in about 3 500 BCE. What is most remarkable are the scars suggesting that she survived this operation.

Modern neurosurgery did not really begin until the late 19th century, when surgeons opened the meninges to operate directly on the brain. But these first years were difficult ones: the survival rate for any surgical procedure that involved opening the skull was only 10%!

Then came American surgeon Harvey Cushing (1869-1939), now regarded as the father of modern neurosurgery. In the early 20th century, he developed a great many new techniques that increased the survival rate for neurosurgery spectacularly, to over 90%!

Cushing wasn’t afraid to improvise new solutions to the problems posed by neurosurgery. For example, the biggest problem was that, because brain tissue is so densely vascularized, patients often bled to death. Cushing therefore developed all sorts of small tools to prevent the blood vessels in the brain from bleeding too much, such as small clips that could be used to pinch off blood vessels and stop the hemorrhaging.

Cushing was also a talented artist. Immediately after each operation, he would make drawings that contained a great deal of information about the way that he had opened the skull, the parts of the brain that he had touched, and so on.

Cushing is estimated to have successfully removed more than 2 000 brain tumours in the course of his career. He conducted his 2 000th brain tumour operation almost exactly 80 years ago today, on April 15, 1931! The first link below will take you to an excerpt from the film shot during this operation.

d_lien Harvey Cushing’s 2000th tumor resection
d_lien Video: Inca Trepanation
i_lien Harvey Cushing photo journal
a_lien L’histoire de la Neurochirurgie, par Bernard Alliez

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