The Agony and the Ecstasy
Dr Geoff Bunn's 10 part History of the Brain is a journey through 5000 years of our understanding of this complex organ in our heads. From Neolithic times to the present day, he reveals the contemporary beliefs about what the brain is for and how it fulfils its functions.
While referencing the core physiology and neuroscience, this is a cultural, not a scientific history. What soon becomes obvious is that our understanding of this most inscrutable organ has in all periods been coloured by the social and political expedients of the day no less than by the contemporary scope of scientific or biological exploration.
Episode 8: The Agony and the Ecstasy, focuses on the collaborative work between Otto Loewi in Austria and Henry Dale in England. They established that communication within the brain is chemical and not electrical. Thanks to the work of many exiles from Nazism (and a leech smuggled out by one of them) the vital role of acetylcholine became known. This work laid the foundation for the neuropharmalogical gold rush of the 1950s, with the discovery of drugs to help those suffering from schizophrenia, depression and anxiety.
The series is entirely written and presented by Dr Geoff Bunn of Manchester Metropolitan University, with actors Paul Bhattacharjee and Jonathan Forbes providing the voices of those who have written about the brain from Ancient Egypt to the present day, and actor Hattie Morahan giving the Anatomy Lesson which establishes the part of the brain to be highlighted in each episode - in this instance the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and adrenalin. The original, atmospheric score is supplied by composer, Barney Quinton.
Producer: Marya Burgess.