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December 1979

Staining the Human Brain

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurology University of Iowa College of Medicine Iowa City, IA

Arch Neurol. 1979;36(13):813. doi:10.1001/archneur.1979.00500490027003

Edwin Clarke and C. D. O'Malley, in their compendium The Human Brain and Spinal Cord,1 quote a remarkable passage from a paper read by the Danish anatomist Nicolas Steno (1638-1686) to a group of scholars in Paris in 1665. Although it addresses the status of brain anatomy at that time, Steno's comments strike a distinctly modern chord and provide an excellent background against which M-M. Mesulam's provocative article (p 814-818) can be viewed. He states:

If, as I have just said, the substance of the brain is little known to us, the true manner of dissecting it is not any better known. I do not speak of those who cut the brain into slices; it has been recognized for a long time that this does not provide any anatomical elucidation. The other (method of) dissection in which the gyri are unfolded is a little more artistic, but it only