Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Contiguity not Continuity
01 May 2012

Contiguity not Continuity

Nerves in our brain and body are not just a tangle of tendrils. Santiago Ramón y Cajal – born on this day in 1852 – showed that nerve cells are discrete yet interconnected. Rewarded with a Nobel Prize in 1906, he is dubbed the ‘father of modern neuroscience’. His microscope would today be deemed primitive, if not unusable, but with it he discerned subtly distinct cell types. A passionate artist, he also deftly illustrated the intricacies of the nervous system. Pictured is his interpretation of the mammalian retina (outward facing side at image foot). The elongated shapes (depicted top) represent the rods and cones, light-sensitve nerve cells that send chemical signals to our brain for interpretation as a visual image. Cajal’s work continues to inspire neuroscientists today – although the state-of-the-art is of another world.

Written by Lindsey Goff

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