The perineuronal net: A weapon for a challenge

R. Spreafico, S. De Biasi, L. Vitellaro-Zuccarello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Theories and data do not always fit and sometimes are sources of conflicts among scientists. This is the case of a morphological structure, the perineuronal net, which was denied on the basis of an ideological conflict between two giants of neurosciences: Camillo Golgi and Santiago Ramon y Cajal. The perineuronal net is a reticular structure enveloping many neurons. Originally reported by Golgi in 1893 and 1898 and confirmed by several authors before the turn of the century, the perineuronal net was used by Golgi to support the reticular theory of the organization of the nervous system. Ramon y Cajal, the paladin of the neuronal theory who had also observed this anatomical structure, denied its existence suggesting that it was a fixation artifact. After Cajal's statements, only a few Italian scientists continued to work in this field, and after the 1930s the perineuronal net was forgotten. Only the recent advances in histochemical and immunocytochemical technology confirmed the existence of this structure opening new fields in functional neuroanatomy and neuropathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-185
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the History of the Neurosciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Extracellular matrix
  • Golgi
  • Neuronal theory
  • Pericellular net
  • Ramon y Cajal
  • Reticular theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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    Spreafico, R., De Biasi, S., & Vitellaro-Zuccarello, L. (1999). The perineuronal net: A weapon for a challenge. Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, 8(2), 179-185.