Frontlines | The Unstuff'd Brain

Courtesy of Dana Press

Macbeth: Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd ...?

Doctor: Therein the patient must minister to himself.

Macbeth: Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it.

--Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene III

Though William Shakespeare uses the word 'brain' 66 times in his plays, his works hardly read like a neurological review article. Yet, say neurologist Paul Matthews and linguist Jeffrey McQuain, his comprehension of how the brain works is comparable to what is known to modern scientists. That's the hypothesis of their coffee table book, The Bard on the Brain: Understanding the Mind Through the Art of Shakespeare and the Science of Brain Imaging.1

"In some ways, Shakespeare was a scientist," says Matthews, who heads Oxford's Brain Imaging Centre. "He took down his observations on the human condition with precision. The stage was his laboratory."...

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