Exorcizing the animal spirits: Jan Swammerdam on nerve function

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For more than 1,500 years, nerves were thought to function through the action of 'animal spirits'. In the seventeenth century, René Descartes conceived of these 'spirits' as liquids or gases, and used the idea to explain reflex action. But he was rapidly proven wrong by a young Dutchman, Jan Swammerdam. Swammerdam's elegant experiments pioneered the frog nerve-muscle preparation and laid the foundation of our modern understanding of nerve function.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-400
Number of pages5
JournalNature Reviews Neuroscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2002