Main content

The Origin of Common Sense

Episode 3 of 10

Dr Geoff Bunn's journey through 5,000 years of human understanding of our brain. Early Christian and Islamic contributions.

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.

In Episode 3: The Origin of Common Sense, the focus is on Ancient Rome with Galen's 'animal spirits' gently inflating the ventricles and making thought possible, and on how early Christian scholarship placed the soul in the brain's ventricles. But with the Dark Ages, it was Islamic scholars who continued to explore the brain: Al Razi studied apoplexy or stroke, while Ibn Sina proposed that thoughts travelled through the brain in a predictable sequence and identified the 'common sense' in the front ventricle.

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 ventricles. The original, atmospheric score is supplied by composer, Barney Quinton.

Producer: Marya Burgess.

Available now

15 minutes

Last on

Thu 15 Nov 2018 02:15


  • Wed 9 Nov 2011 13:45
  • Wed 19 Nov 2014 14:15
  • Thu 20 Nov 2014 00:15
  • Wed 21 Sep 2016 14:15
  • Thu 22 Sep 2016 02:15
  • Wed 14 Nov 2018 14:15
  • Thu 15 Nov 2018 02:15

Featured in...