Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The contribution of Santiago Ramon y Cajal to functional neuroscience


Santiago Ramón y Cajal — arguably the most accomplished anatomist in the history of neuroscience — became recognized as such not only because of his incredible anatomical skills and his indefatigable working habits, but also because of his uncanny sense of the functional implications of his work, a sense that made him a true genius in the field of biology.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: The organization of the central visual pathways.
Figure 2: The directionality of the 'nervous current'.
Figure 3: Physical dimensions of the neuronal circuits of a mammal, a cephalopod and an insect.


  1. Popper, K. Logik der Forschung (Springer, Vienna, 1934).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Ramón y Cajal, S. The Croonian Lecture. La fine structure des centres nerveux. Proc. Roy. Soc.Lond. B 55, 444–468 (1894).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Ramón y Cajal, S. Textura del Sistema Nervioso del Hombre y de los Vertebrados (Moya, Madrid, 1899).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Ramón y Cajal, S. Leyes de la morfología y dinamismo de las células nerviosas. Rev. Trim. Micrográfíca 2, 1–12 (1897).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ramón y Cajal, S. Sobre las fibras nerviosas de la capa molecular del cerebelo. Rev. Trim. Histol. Normal Patol. 1, 33–49 (1888).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Sotelo, C. Viewing the brain through the master hand of Ramón y Cajal. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 4, 71–77 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Ramón y Cajal, S. Estructura del kiasma óptico y teoría general de los entrecruzamientos de las vías nerviosas. Rev. Trim. Micrográfíca 3 (1898)

  8. Bell, C. An Idea of a New Anatomy of the Brain; Submitted for the Observations of his Friends (Strahan & Preston, London, 1811).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Magendie, F. Expériences sur les fonctions des racines des nerfs rachidiens. J. Physiol. Exp. Pathol. 2, 276–279 (1822).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Magendie, F. Expériences sur les fonctions des racines des nerfs qui nascent de la moëlle épinière. J. Physiol. Exp. Pathol. 2, 366–371 (1822).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Fulton, J. F. Physiology of the Nervous System (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1938).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Hagiwara, S. & Tasaki, I. A study on the mechanism of impulse transmission across the giant synapse of the squid. J. Physiol. (Lond.) 143, 114–137 (1958).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Couteaux, R. Motor endplate structure in Structure and Function of Muscle (Bourne, G.) 337 (Academic, New York, 1960).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Eccles, J. C. The nature of central inhibition. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 153, 445–476 (1961).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Ramón y Cajal, S. Recuerdos de Mi Vida: Historia de Mi Labor Científica 3rd edn (Juan Pueyo, Madrid, 1923).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Meinertzhagen, I. A. and O'Neil, S. D. Synaptic organization of columnar elements in the lamina of the wild type in Drosophila melanogaster. J. Comp. Neurol. 305, 232–263 (1991).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Ramón y Cajal, S. Neuron Theory or Reticular Theory? (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, 1954).

    Google Scholar 

Download references


I thank I. Meinertzhagen for conversations on neuronal size in insects.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Related links

Related links


Encyclopedia of Life Sciences

neural information processing

Ramòn y Cajal, Santiago

MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences

Cajal, Santiago Ramón y

neural networks

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Llinás, R. The contribution of Santiago Ramon y Cajal to functional neuroscience. Nat Rev Neurosci 4, 77–80 (2003).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing