What Were Mouse Brains Used For In Ancient Rome

Ancient Roman MouseBrain Uses

Ancient Romans had many solutions to problems and always explored new ideas, which extended to the use of mouse brains in their studies. The mice were sacrificed in order to make use of their now extinct talents and experts in the field have suggested that the ancient Romans had an understanding of brain anatomy and alternative medicine, beyond what was known at the time. Many believe these early experiments led to fundamental understandings in neuroscience and may have even contributed towards the later development of treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy.

Mouse Brain Use for Medicine

In the early age of Ancient Rome, medicines were made from the fat and brain matter of mice, as well as snakes, toads and other small animals. The mouse was considered a sacred animal amongst many civilisations, most notably the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and as such, their brain matter was thought to hold both practical and magical properties. This use of mice to create medical remedies was continued for over 400 years, particularly for the cure of toothache and warts. The process of application was varied, from burying the mouse under the threshold of a door to ensuring it was the last animal to cross a bridge, depending on the preference of the practitioner.

Use of the Mouse in Magic

Alongside Ancient Romans’ use of animals in medicine, mice were also known to feature in pagan rituals. Scholars claim that ancient Roman people believed that mice had access to the spirit world and any spell cast using a mouse was more powerful. Many of these rituals made use of the mouse’s brain, heart and blood, particularly in sorcery against enemies. The animals were often raised in captivity, only being released when the ritual was to commence in order to prevent them from scattering.

Sacralization of the Mouse

Furthermore, mice were sometimes used to calculate the fate of a person. This involved an individual bringing two mice to an oracle, and the reading of their tails as a source of divination. Mice were also believed to be the soul of a deceased person, and were used in burials as a way to send them off with good will. Overall, in ancient Rome, mice were often thought of as creatures of special powers, and as such brought with them a sense of reverence.

Mouse Brain Use in Neuroscience Research

In the modern world, research has continued to make use of mouse brains in order to understand their anatomy and potential uses in treatments. Scientists are using the brains of mice to study the structure and function of neural networks and observe the activity of neurons in response to stimulation. This research provides an invaluable understanding of the brain that was otherwise completely unknown before. It has enabled scientist to gain a much better insight into cognition, feelings and emotions.

Current Use of Mouse Brain

Despite the long history of mouse brain use, their current application has extended far beyond Ancient Rome. Researchers have analyzed the genetic code in a mouse brain, or the “mouseome,” and discovered many similarities to that of humans. This has allowed them to use the mouse brain to explore diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, helping to identify potential treatments. Similarly, the neuroscience profession is utilizing mice to study the effects of a variety of therapeutics and how they interact with the brain.

Education and Research Purposes

mouse brains have become an increasingly common resource in educational settings, such as laboratories and classrooms. This is because they are easily obtainable and allow students to observe the anatomy and functioning of the brain. By exposing the brain, students can gain a better understanding of the anatomy, networks and complex circuit mechanisms found in humans, allowing them to make connections in their own studies. Similarly, researchers are now able to collect large amounts of data from mice, making them an ideal source for the study of cognition and neuroscience.

Brings Back Ancient History

Today’s use of mouse brains has reignited an excitement around the historical anecdotes of mouse brain use in Ancient Rome. While the rituals of today are evidently not the same as they used to be, some scholars have suggested that the use of mouse brain in modern research has mirrored the use of the ancient Romans in their magical rituals. For many, the use of mouse brains has brought back a connection to Rome’s most valued arguments regarding the power and influence of the mouse.


The use of mouse brains in Ancient Rome spanned centuries and went beyond medicine, as it featured in many rituals and ceremonies that were part of life for many civilisations. Today, mouse brains are used for a variety of purposes, such as medical study and research, as well as educational applications. As such, the use of mouse brains has not only brought back a connection to Ancient Rome but has further helped to create a better understanding of neuroscience in the modern world.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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