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Edited by Pedro Pasik and Tauba Pasik. Published by Springer-Verlag Wien, New York, 2002, pp 661, €363. ISBN 3-211-83202-5
The newly translated and edited English version of Cajal’s book consists of 22 chapters that primarily cover structures of the central nervous system with much emphasis on the retina, cortex, and major components of the hippocampal or limbic system. Camera lucida drawings and highly illustrative diagrams that are based mainly on Golgi stained materials invariably accompany the detailed description of the various nerve cell types and structures. The annotations included by the authors have corrected numerous mistakes or errors in the original Spanish version. This effort ought to be appreciated and admired.
Cajal’s use of comparative approach is further reiterated by the description and discussion of the similarities and differences in cytological features of specific morphological nerve cells in different vertebrate species. The functional aspect of major types of nerve cells or neuronal systems, in particular the notion of activity dependent changes of dendritic spines and intrinsic circuitry including centrifugal and centripetal fibres of distinct structures or cells types, is also commented on or discussed at the end of a particular section, by referring often to studies or evidence obtained by other researchers. The sections on histogenesis of the retina and cortex is thought provoking because some of the important concepts including migration, differentiation, and process outgrowth that receive much attention nowadays are already elaborated with support of penetrating observations. The foresight and genius of Cajal is echoed by the very fine work of his contemporaries who undoubtedly had also made a significant contribution to establish the foundation of modern neuroscience that continued to develop in the following decades.
The authors must be congratulated for their excellent and painstaking work in making one of Cajal’s masterpieces so readable, and more importantly, perhaps, available to many of us who are great admirers of Cajal but unfortunately have no knowledge of Spanish or French. I have no reservation in recommending the publication of the English version to anyone who is fascinated or simply wants to have a glimpse of the far reaching genius of Cajal, who is definitely one of the greats in the history of science.