Cajal and the Conceptual Weakness of Neural Sciences

Front Neuroanat. 2015 Sep 30;9:128. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2015.00128. eCollection 2015.


The experimental and conceptual contributions of Santiago Ramón y Cajal remain almost as fresh and valuable as when his original proposals were published more than a century ago-a rare example, contrasting with other related sciences. His basic concepts on the neuron as the main building block of the central nervous system, the dynamic polarization principle as a way to understand how neurons deal with ongoing active processes, and brain local structural arrangements as a result of the functional specialization of selected neural circuits are concepts still surviving in present research papers dealing with brain function during the performance of cognitive and/or behavioral activities. What is more, the central dogma of the Neuroscience of today, i.e., brain plasticity as the morpho-functional substrate of memory and learning processes, was already proposed and documented with notable insights by Ramón y Cajal. From this background, I will try to discuss in this chapter which new functional and structural concepts have been introduced in contemporary Neuroscience and how we will be able to construct a set of basic principles underlying brain functions for the twenty-first century.

Keywords: Ramón y Cajal; higher brain functions; neural functional laws and principles; neural plasticity and elasticity; neural sciences.