Open Eyes, Open Mind: Perceiving and conceiving new things in new ways

What we understand is a function of what we can imagine, and what we can imagine is a function of what we can remember, and what we can remember is a function of what we can see. As various types of technology enhance our ability both to create new things to see (art) and to see things in new ways (science), they also inform our ability to understand new things in new ways.

What Einstein did for physics, a Spaniard named Santiago Ramón y Cajal did for neuroscience more than a century ago.

Back in the 1890s, Cajal produced a series of drawings of brain cells that would radically change scientists’ understanding of the brain …

[“Most of the neuroscientists in the mid-19th century”] saw the brain and nervous system as a single, continuous web, not a collection of separate cells. But Cajal reached a different conclusion.

“Cajal looked under the microscope at different parts of the brain and said, ‘It’s not like a fishing net’” …

Decades later, electron microscopes would confirm Cajal’s theory. And his drawings are still found in many neuroscience textbooks.

“Cajal made these drawings as part of his thinking through his theories about the brain.”

Drawing of neurons of yellowed paper


Art Exhibition Celebrates Drawings by the Founder of Modern Neuroscience | NPR: Jon Hamilton

Hunched Over a Microscope, He Sketched the Secrets of How the Brain Works | Joanna Klein