Heads up: The Beautiful Brain

The New York Times has a great review of a new book of Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s drawings and photos of the brain’s microscopic structure from around 1900:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/science/santiago-ramon-y-cajal-beautiful-brain.html.  He along with Camilio Golgi won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1906 for their pioneering work discovering the cellular organization of the brain.  Here is Ramon y Cajal.


Santiago Ramon y Cajal

He and Golgi spent many hours peering through their microscopes at slides of brain tissue and then drew or photographed them to help them develop theirs and our understanding of neural architecture.  Golgi developed a stain for neurons to highlight their structures.

When I was a young graduate student in 1975, modern brain imaging was in its early days.  I studied the historical work and looked forward to the advances new imaging techniques would bring, and how they have brought them!  I remember pondering a book about the connections to and from the frontal lobe gleaned by studying slides over 10 years to trace the cells and axonal/dendritic structures.  This was painstaking but primitive work that is done now in seconds.

Both Ramon y Cajal and Golgi were fascinated by the cytoarchitecture of everyone’s favorite brain structure, the hippocampus.


Ramon y Cajal’s study of the hippocampus

Their early work highlighted the beauty of this little baby and started us on a journey to understand the mind.  Thanks, Santiago and Camilio, and thanks to the authors, Swanson and Newman, who have put this new book together, and thanks to the NYT for alerting me to its publication.

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