Origin and endpoint of the Olfactory Nerve fibers: As described by Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Catherine Levine, Alexander Marcillo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In the late Nineteenth Century, Santiago Ramón y Cajal was able to reproduce an exceptional illustration of the Olfactory Nerve pathway and its myriad of cells, by using the Golgi Method. Dr. Cajal focused intense study on the histology of the nervous system and published a treatise on the olfactory nerve fibers and the distinct peripheral origin and central nervous system endpoint of this unique pathway. The original title of this work is "Origen y terminatión de las fibras nerviosas olfatorias" published in 1890. As the original publication is in Spanish, here we provide an English translation allowing present-day English speakers to read these writings. Cajal followed the trajectory of the olfactory nerve fibers as they transitioned between the peripheral and central nervous system and was able to assert that these fibers were not continuous from the olfactory bulb to the bipolar cells that relinquish into the olfactory epithelium, but that the olfactory system was made up of various cell types each having distinct morphologies and functions. This may very well be the first definitive description of the olfactory receptor neurons and the first illustrations of the continuity of these cells throughout the olfactory pathway. These meticulous histological preparations were created by first using Camillo Golgi's potassium dichromate and silver nitrate impregnation method known as "reazione nera" or "black reaction," where nerve cells, nerve fibers, and neuroglia could be visualized. This study exhibits the structural and functional organization of the mammalian fila olfactoria as it was investigated in centuries past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-750
Number of pages10
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Granules
  • Mitral cells
  • Olfactory bulb
  • Olfactory system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Biotechnology
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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