Cajal and brain plasticity: Insights relevant to emerging concepts of mind

Efrain C. Azmitia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The main legacies of Cajal are his drawings of brain structure and their connections, and his ideas of brain plasticity, not only in the mature brain but also during development and after brain injury. As the 21st century begins, many scientists are asking an old question: "how does the brain express the mind?" Although most models of mind incorporate the brain connections produced by Cajal, his ideas of plasticity are largely ignored. The purpose of this chapter is to review how some of Cajal's ideas can be useful in understanding the expression of the mind. I have also introduced several concepts and facts not available during Cajal's life. I cover the concept of homeostasis, the global projections of the monoamine neurons, and the actions of "mind-expanding" drugs. The global projecting neurons, because their monoamine transmitters have such a long history, are considered 1st order systems. The point-to-point connections are considered 2nd order systems. Their importance in theories of functional localization studies is briefly reviewed. Finally, a new model is presented called "Plastic Homeostasis," which incorporates the plastic interactions between 1st and 2nd order neurons. It is hoped that this review will encourage others to study the ideas presented by Cajal when considering functions of the brain. The emerging models of the mind would be well served by a review of the theoretical writing of Cajal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-405
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research Reviews
Issue number2 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • 5-HT
  • Dementia
  • Homeostasis
  • Intelligence
  • LSD
  • Localization
  • Monoamines
  • Neuron
  • Neuroplasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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