Nerve Endings: The Discovery of the Synapse

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9780393337525: Nerve Endings: The Discovery of the Synapse

This is the story not only of one of the nineteenth-century's greatest discoveries but also of the frailty, perseverance, and creativity of human beings.

Two doctors, the Spaniard Cajal and the Italian Golgi, were racing against each other to find out what brain cells looked like and how they managed to communicate with one another. Both did their most important research in labs set up on their kitchen tables, for lack of better facilities; and both made landmark findings that led to their jointly receiving the 1906 Nobel Prize. Yet one man would find that neurons communicated over a gap, later named the 'synapse', while the other would die convinced that every brain cell connected to the next. From Parkinson's to neurosurgery, from the mechanics of memory to clinical depression, modern medicine is ever indebted to the one who interpreted the elusive - and rather extraordinary - anatomy of the nerve cell.

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About the Author:

RICHARD RAPPORT, M. D., is a neurosurgeon and author of Physician: The Life of Paul Beeson.

From School Library Journal:

Adult/High School–This is a fascinating account of how two isolated and unknown individuals overcame significant obstacles and revolutionized the study of the nervous system more than 100 years ago. Work by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Spaniard, and Camillo Golgi, an Italian, led to the identification by Cajal of entities now called synapses that permit communication between nerve cells. Golgi invented a staining procedure, refined by Cajal, that unlocked many secrets of the nervous system. Golgi believed in a reticular structure in which all nerve cells were connected to each other; Cajal demonstrated that this was not correct and established the neuronal theory, the foundation of the current understanding of nervous-system function. The book includes illustrations of nerve-cell structures produced by Cajal and is an excellent introduction to how neural science advanced at the end of the 19th century. Personal considerations and conflict, national and international prejudice, and cultural differences are set against the evolving geopolitical background as Europe slipped toward the First World War. Cajal, Golgi, and others used primitive light microscopes. The volume describes how the earlier work is being continued with such modern techniques as electron microscopy and how current research is examining the role of synaptic dysfunction in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Students of the history of science and cultural change should find Nerve Endings interesting and informative. Teens studying biology and medicine will find that the book provides an accessible introduction to understanding the structure and function of the nervous system.–Ted Woodcock, George Mason University, Arlington, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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