The Machine That Tried To Scan The Brain — In 1882
by CHRIS BENDEREV
August 17, 2014 5:24 AM ET
Angelo Mosso’s human circulation balance operated on a simple idea, relatively untested at the time: The brain needs more blood when it works harder.
Mosso would have volunteers lie down on a long wooden plank, carefully balanced on a fulcrum, like a seesaw. He calibrated for anything that might throw off the balance, like the rise and fall of the volunteer’s breathing. Then with everything secured, he’d ring a bell.
Mosso reasoned his volunteer’s brain would have to process the sound, requiring more blood, making it weigh more, which would tip the scale toward the head’s side. According to his manuscripts, that’s exactly what happened… Sandrone says Mosso’s documents claim his machine could also detect the differing weights of various mental activities. Reading a philosophy book reportedly tipped the balance more than reading something light, like a newspaper…
Thinking and blood flow are intimately connected, a fundamental concept behind many of today’s brain scanning tools. The brain is not that simple. But Poldrack has a guess as to why brain technology has often made it seem like it is.
Weighing brain activity with the balance: a contemporary replication of Angelo Mosso’s historical experiment
- David T. Field1 and
- Laura A. Inman2