Procedure details

Controversy - the pros and cons

History of trepanation

Brain Pulsations

Effect of trepanation on brain pulsations

Mechanism and beneficial effects of trepanation on cerebral circulation

Trepanation in ancient times

Trepanation across different cultural groups

References and citations

Advanced reading




Introduction to trepanation

Trepanation is the practice of making a hole in the skull in order to improve the brain pulsations and hence the overall well being.

A trepan is the instrument used for making a hole in the skull bone. It is sometimes spelled trephine. The idea is to pump up the brainbloodvolume. It's known that one's level of consciousness is directly related to the volume of blood in one's brain. As a result, trepanners say, one feels happier and more energetic. The practice of trepanation has been around since the Stone Age. Trepanation is the oldest surgical procedure practiced by mankind. At no time had evidence been found that brain surgery was the intention of this procedure. To the contrary, evidence shows that from the very earliest trepanations elaborate care was taken not to penetrate below the level of the bone membrane. Care was taken not to penetrate through the dura matter. Care was taken not to damage the brain.

Procedure of trepanation and its effects on the body

An instrument called a trepan is used to make the hole. Throughout history, the trepanning tool has developed dramatically, evolving from a crude hunk of sharpened flint in prehistoric times to a hand-cranked auger in the first century to, nowadays, an electric drill. Anyway, the trepan goes into your skull and a chunk of bone is extracted. You bandage yourself up and eventually the skin heals over, leaving only a small indentation to show for the hole in your head. The idea is to pump up your brainbloodvolume. Your level of consciousness, goes Huges' theory, is directly related to the volume of blood in your brain. Babies have naturally high brainbloodvolume, being born with a soft spot at the top of their heads, the fontanel, that gives the brain room to pulse. When you look at a baby's head, you can actually see the pliant tissue at the fontanel throbbing with the baby's heartbeat, pumping oxygen through the brain. Within the first year, though, that soft tissue hardens into bone. And therein lies the problem. Once the fontanel seals off, your brain has no proper vent through which to breathe. To make matters worse, the upright stance you adopt as a toddler allows gravity to pull blood away from your head, the beginning of a lifelong drain. Pulsation decreases. Brainbloodvolume plummets. You get lethargic, estranged, depressed. By opening up that hole one may reverse nature's wayward development and return the skull to its original condition. As a result, trepanners say, you'll be happier, more energetic and less prone to crippling bouts of ennui. You'll ascend to the child's plane of acute consciousness from which you disembarked to enter the lowly malaise of adulthood.

Though doctors disagree and say it's dangerous. You expose your precious brain, you remove God's covering, there's a risk of infection and all sorts of other problems. Brain doctors seem to view this invasion of the cranium's hallowed realm as a violation of some universal taboo. More to the point, they don't approve of amateurs dipping their fingers into the neurochemical soup. But they readily agree on one point: a hole is the starting point for all neurosurgical procedures. Trepanation is performed, for example, to evacuate hemorrhages and to relieve pressure in the cranial cavity caused by cerebral ulcers. But, for neurosurgeons, the hole is a means to an end, and they put the bone back in place.

Trepanation was practiced on every continent through every time period and by every race of mankind until the advent of brain surgery in this century. Doctors give this medical advice to people that trepanation was done in past centuries for superstitious, magical or religious reasons. They generally look on trepanation as a practice akin to blood letting. They scoff at it. They deny that trepanation could have a reasonable basis. They fear that to practice trepanation would demean their professional status. They have stated that they wouldn't undertake it if their lives depended on it. And further, trepanation can't be investigated by any individual doctor because a board must be set up to approve all research projects connected to universities and hospitals. However trepanation doesn't go away. It is ingrained in our history. The ancestors of modern Europeans, the Battle-Ax people, were prodigious trepanners as well as were all other ancient peoples. There is an extensive scientific literature on trepanation both in medicine and anthropology. The risk to benefit ratio would have to have been very favorable for the practice to have been so widely practiced but official investigators haven't been able to see that there is a both a rationale and a benefit to this procedure. There seems to be a deliberate intent amongst them not to see, maybe even a conspiracy, that there is a benefit to making a hole in the skull bone. This is understandable though because if doctors and scientists recognized the benefit they would be obliged to announce to the world that upright walking humans need a hole in the head! It's unlikely that doctors will be stepping forward with this announcement anytime soon so in the meantime the public will have to educate itself and then educate the doctors.

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