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Prog Neurobiol. 2007 Oct;83(2):110-30. Epub 2007 Jun 19.

The discovery of dendritic spines by Cajal in 1888 and its relevance in the present neuroscience.

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Museo Cajal, Instituto Cajal, CSIC, Avda. Doctor Arce 37, 28002 Madrid, Spain.


The year 2006 marks the centenary of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine awarded to Santiago Ramón y Cajal and Camilo Golgi, "in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system". Their discoveries are keys to understanding the present neuroscience, for instance, the discovery of dendritic spines. Cajal discovered dendritic spines in 1888 with the Golgi method, although other contemporary scientists thought that they were silver precipitates. Dendritic spines were demonstrated definitively as real structures by Cajal with the Methylene Blue in 1896. Many of the observations of Cajal and other contemporary scientists about dendritic spines are active fields of research of present neuroscience, for instance, their morphology, distribution, density, development and function. This article will deal with the main contributions of Cajal and other contemporary scientists about dendritic spines. We will analyse their contributions from the historical and present point of view. In addition, we will show high quality images of Cajal's original preparations and drawings related with this discovery.

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