Ancient Brain Surgery 1000 Years Ago

By Anupum Pant

With specialized equipment and several other complications, we think we’ve come far with brain surgery. Today, brain surgery is supposed to be a modern advancement that enables us to treat obscure anomalies associated with the human brain. Of course we’ve advanced a lot, but there is no way we can reject the advancements in brain surgery attained during ancient times – Ancient brain surgery.

Trepanation: About 1000 years ago, ancient surgeons were already drilling through the human skulls; exposing the brain. Early Peru doctors were practicing a process called trepanation to treat a variety of brain related ailments.

The Story

Just a few days back, a research team led by UC Santa Barbara’s bioarchaeologist Danielle Kurin, excavated 32 skulls which illustrated that some sort of brain surgery was done on these Peruvian individuals back then. According to them, the skulls unearthed, had been drilled to treat swollen brains, or  of a neurological, spiritual or psychosomatic illnesses.

Around 1000 years ago, when a Peruvian empire was collapsing, on various skull, drilling and cutting methods were being employed to deal with challenges like violence, disease and depravation. This trend is seen as somewhat similar to how IED’s are driving exploration of prosthetic technology in the military now.  Exactly as guessed, not all of these ancient brain surgery procedures were successful, some of them did fail. But that is not the point.

According to Daniel Kurin talking about one of these 32 unearthed skull samples:

In one example, each hole is drilled a little deeper than the last. So you can imagine a guy in his prehistoric Peruvian medical school practicing with his hand drill to know how many times he needs to turn it to nimbly and accurately penetrate the thickness of a skull.

As noted by the lead researcher, a great amount of skill and practice was involved in these procedures. It is incredible to note that surgeons back then were using modern medical educational practices – using dead bodies to study physical sicknesses.

It wasn’t torture

Finally, if you’d argue that it could be a way to torture prisoners, scientists have something to disprove that theory too. What they were doing was not a way to torture people. They’ve found solid proofs that the skulls of individuals that were being drilled, were actually sick and were being operated upon by using proper operating procedures – like shaving hair before operating.

Pope John XXI – A Man of God and Science

by Anupum Pant

Pope John XXI was the only pope ever, who had an illustrious medical career alongside his work as a theologian. He was also a fruitful writer, who wrote on subjects like logic, physics, philosophy and medicine. Before being elected as a Pope, he served as personal physician to Pope Gregory.

In medicine, he contributed towards great advances in female reproductive system and wrote about a few remarkably effective methods of birth control, during times when the Catholic Church condemned contraception. He also taught medicine at the University of Siena.

As men with thoughts ahead of their time are always labeled as heretics, John was also called a magician after his death. His death was announced to have been caused by “an act of god”.

The unfortunate accident

His brief papacy [of 8 months, 1276-77] ended with a tragic accident:

As a man of the science, he dabbled in astronomy and had a special room built in the papal palace. He loved spending hours in this special room, where he could observe the stars at night. It was in this room, where he sustained severe injuries, when the roof of his palace collapsed. He died six days later (on May 20, 1277).

Stephen Hawking’s interpretation

In 1277, Pope John XXI’s declared ‘laws of nature’ to be heresy because they conflicted with God’s omnipotence. Several years later, Hawking and Mlodinow, with their book, The Grand Design, caused quite a stir when they wrote – “Pope John was killed by the effects of the law of gravity a few months later when the roof of his palace fell in on him“.

Bonus Death Fact: Jack Daniel, the founder of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery, died in very peculiar manner:

Unable to open the safe in his office, Mr. Jack kicked it in frustration. This blow broke his toe and infection set in, leading to his untimely death in 1911. – [Source]

Horror Movies are Good for You

by Anupum Pant

It is Halloween today and most of us must be busy making plans for the day. But if you’ve missed including a horror movie in your plans, after reading this post, you might want to consider putting it in the list.

Studies have shown that watching a horror movie can actually be beneficial to your health. In two separate experiments, scientists were able to record two different ways in which horror movies can be good for you. Of course, this shouldn’t encourage extremely sensitive people to force horror movies onto themselves. In spite of these proven benefits, pregnant women, old men, little kids and people with heart disorders must try to stay away.

Moreover, the benefits found, were not practically too big. So, if you are thinking of leaving your healthy diet plan and making up for it by starting to watch more horror movies, you are mistaken. But, scientifically, the discovery of such co-relations are considered as noteworthy.

The first study (increase in immunity)

Researchers suggest that while people watch horror movies, their brain secretes chemicals like dopamine, glutamate and serotonin. As a result, there is an increased brain activity, which makes the mind alert for a while. Additionally, threat signals that pass through the brain stimulate adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, which has an anesthesia like effect.

Secondly, a half-hour watch was found enough to boost the number of active white blood cells in their blood – they are responsible to keep diseases away. In the test, a first time watch of Texas Chainsaw Massacre by 32 men and women led to an increased immunity for some time. [Source Paper]

The second study (burns calories)

In another study conducted recently, scientists observed an average of 184 burnt calories among the people who watched The Shining (the 1980 thriller). Jaws took the second spot, with people burning on an average of 161 calories after watching it, and The Exorcist came third, with 158 calories. Top 5 calorie burning movies were as follows:

1. The Shining: 184 calories
2. Jaws: 161 calories
3. The Exorcist: 158 calories
4. Alien: 152 calories
5. Saw: 133 calories

Increased heart rate, muscular contractions, a surge in adrenalin, oxygen intake and greater carbon-dioxide output were the main reasons that  these extra calories got burnt. So, the next time you are watching a horror movie (working out), avoid popping popcorn. [Read more]