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The fine structure of the autonomic nervous system was largely unknown at the beginning of the second decade of the 20th century. Although relatively anatomists and histologists had studied the subject, even the assays by the great Russian histologist Alexander Dogiel and the Spanish Nobel Prize laureate, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, were incomplete. In a time which witnessed fundamental discoveries by Langley, Loewi and Dale on the physiology of the autonomic nervous system, both reputed researchers entrusted one of their outstanding disciples to the challenge to further investigate autonomic structures: the Russian B.I. Lawrentjew and the Spanish Fernando de Castro developed new technical approaches with spectacular results. In the mid of the 1920’s, both young neuroscientists were worldwide recognized as the top experts in the field. In the present work we describe the main discoveries by Fernando de Castro in those years regarding the structure of sympathetic and sensory ganglia, the organization of the synaptic contacts in these ganglia, and the nature of their innervation, later materialized in their respective chapters, personally invited by the editor, in Wilder Penfield’s famous textbook on Neurology and the Nervous System. Most of these discoveries remain fully alive today. © 2016 de Castro.


Molnar Z.,University of Oxford | Kaas J.H.,Vanderbilt University | De Carlos J.A.,Instituto Cajal CSIC | Hevner R.F.,Institute Center for Integrative Brain Research | And 2 more authors.
Brain, Behavior and Evolution | Year: 2014

Comparative developmental studies of the mammalian brain can identify key changes that can generate the diverse structures and functions of the brain. We have studied how the neocortex of early mammals became organized into functionally distinct areas, and how the current level of cortical cellular and laminar specialization arose from the simpler premammalian cortex. We demonstrate the neocortical organization in early mammals, which helps to elucidate how the large, complex human brain evolved from a long line of ancestors. The radial and tangential enlargement of the cortex was driven by changes in the patterns of cortical neurogenesis, including alterations in the proportions of distinct progenitor types. Some cortical cell populations travel to the cortex through tangential migration whereas others migrate radially. A number of recent studies have begun to characterize the chick, mouse and human and nonhuman primate cortical transcriptome to help us understand how gene expression relates to the development and anatomical and functional organization of the adult neocortex. Although all mammalian forms share the basic layout of cortical areas, the areal proportions and distributions are driven by distinct evolutionary pressures acting on sensory and motor experiences during the individual ontogenies. © 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.


DeFelipe J.,Instituto Cajal CSIC | DeFelipe J.,CIBER ISCIII
Frontiers in Neuroanatomy | Year: 2015

Dendritic spines are key components of a variety of microcircuits and they represent the majority of postsynaptic targets of glutamatergic axon terminals in the brain. The present article will focus on the discovery of dendritic spines, which was possible thanks to the application of the Golgi technique to the study of the nervous system, and will also explore the early interpretation of these elements. This discovery represents an interesting chapter in the history of neuroscience as it shows us that progress in the study of the structure of the nervous system is based not only on the emergence of new techniques but also on our ability to exploit the methods already available and correctly interpret their microscopic images. © 2015 DeFelipe.


Rubio N.,Instituto Cajal CSIC | Sanz-Rodriguez F.,Autonomous University of Madrid
Journal of NeuroVirology | Year: 2016

In this study, we demonstrate the upregulation in the expression of caspases 1 and 11 by SJL/J mouse brain astrocytes infected with the BeAn strain of Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV). The upregulation of both proteases hints at protection of astrocytic cells from apoptotic death. We therefore looked for the reason of the demonstrated absence of programmed cell death in BeAn-infected SJL/J astrocytes. Complementary RNA (cRNA) from mock- and TMEV-infected cells was hybridized to the whole murine genome U74v2 DNA microarray from Affymetrix. Those experiments demonstrated the upregulation of gene expression for caspases 1 and 11 in infected cells. We further confirmed and validated their messenger RNA (mRNA) increase by reverse transcriptase quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR). The presence of both enzymatically active caspases 1 and 11 was demonstrated in cell lysates using a colorimetric and fluorymetric assay, respectively. We also show that overexpressed caspase 11 activated caspase 1 after preincubation of cytosol in vitro following a time-dependent process. This induction was neutralized by an anti-caspase 11 polyclonal antibody. These results demonstrate the activation of the caspase 1 precursor by caspase 11 and suggest a new mechanism of protection of BeAn-infected astrocytes from apoptosis. The direct experimental evidence that the protection effect demonstrated in this article was mediated by caspase 1, is provided by the fact that its specific inhibitor Z-WEHD-FMK induced de novo apoptotic death. © 2015, Journal of NeuroVirology, Inc.


de Carlos J.A.,Instituto Cajal CSIC | Pedraza M.,Instituto Cajal CSIC
Anatomical Record | Year: 2014

Santiago Ramón y Cajal was a self-taught researcher. He almost always worked alone, usually in the solitude of his private laboratory installed at his home. He was also a university professor and therefore taught histology and pathology to many students. But because research laboratories were scarce and poorly equipped, he preferred to organize courses and tutor at home as well. For this reason, Cajal left a faint trace of disciples in the three academic chairs that he came to occupy. It may be argued that Cajal formed the histological school when the Spanish government decided to support his investigations and created a scientific laboratory for him, with funding to cover the cost of journals, instruments, materials, personnel, and so forth. This support occurred in the year 1902, after Cajal received the Moscow Prize. Some of his former students accompanied Cajal to the new laboratory. Upon receipt of new awards, including the Gold Medal of von Helmholtz (1905) and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1906), Cajal's popularity increased and a large number of students wanted to learn about the laboratory and work with the great Cajal. This review tells this history. But we realize that this is not an easy task because to be fair to all the people that formed the Spanish Histological School, we would need to write a book. This is not practical. Instead, selection of contributors to the formation of the Spanish Histological School is provided. At the same time, some brushstrokes of the story extend to and include the Cajal Institute, which ran in parallel with the Spanish Histological School. Anat Rec, 297:1785-1802, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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