Golgi ranked the peripheral reticulum - which adheres intimately to nerve cell surfaces - alongside the intracellular reticulum, or Golgi apparatus, which immortalized his name. At first dismissed as an artefact of capricious staining techniques, this peripheral reticulum, or perineuronal net, is now recognized as a genuine entity in neurocytology. It represents a complex of extracellular matrix molecules interposed between the meshwork of glial processes, from which they are indistinguishable, and nerve-cell surfaces. In no other branch of neuroscience has the waxing and waning of interest in any morphological entity been so pronounced as in the case of the perineuronal net. This review traces the history of this enigmatic structure from its conception to the present time, brings to light the keen observational powers of morphologists at the turn of the century and reveals how their sagacious forethought anticipated current thinking on the role of perineuronal nets.
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