Skip to main content

Valentino Braitenberg: From neuroanatomy to behavior and back


This article compiles an expose of Valentino Braitenberg’s singular view on neuroanatomy and neuroscience. The review emphasizes his topologically informed work on neuroanatomy and his dialectics of brain-based explanations of motor behavior. Some of his early ideas on topologically informed neuroanatomy are presented, together with some of his more obscure work on the taxonomy of neural fiber bundles and synaptic arborizations. His functionally informed interpretations of neuroanatomy of the cerebellum, cortex, and hippocampus, are introduced. Finally, we will touch on his philosophical views and the inextricable role of function in the explanation of neural behavior.


  1. Bower JM(2002) The organization of cerebellar cortical circuitry revisited: implications for function. Ann N Y Acad Sci 978:135–155

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Braitenberg V (1954) Zur Frage der anatomischen Veränderungen des Gehirns bei Schizophrenic. Münchener Medizinische Wochenschrift 96:365–367

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Braitenberg V (1959) Morphology of nerve nets. Nuovo Cimento 13(2):521–531

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Braitenberg V (1962) A note on myeloarchitectonics. J Comp Neurol 118:141–156

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Braitenberg V (1965) Taxis, kinesis and decussation. Prog Brain Res 17:1–13

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Braitenberg V (1977) On the texture of brains: an introduction to neuroanatomy for the cybernetically minded. Springer, New York

  7. Braitenberg V: The concept of symmetry in neuroanatomy. N Y Acad Sci Ann 299, 186–196 (1977)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Braitenberg V (1978) Cortical architectonics: general and areal. In: Brazier MAB, Petsche H (eds) Architectonics of the cerebral cortex. Raven Press, New York, pp 443–465

  9. Braitenberg V: The cerebellum revisited. J Theoret Neurobiol 2, 237–241 (1983)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Braitenberg V (1984) Vehicles: experiments in synthetic psychology. Bradford Books, Cambridge

  11. Braitenberg V (1987) The cerebellum and the physics of movement: some speculations. Cerebellum and neuronal plasticity. Plenum Press, New York, pp 193–208

  12. Braitenberg V (1991) Information from structure: a sketch of neuroanatomy. Phys Neural Netw 1:107–120

    Google Scholar 

  13. Braitenberg V (1993) Intricacies of movement control: an essay. In: Aertsen A (ed) Brain theory. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 119–127

  14. Braitenberg V (1999) Structural symmetries of brains. Encyclopedia of neuroscience, 2nd edn. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 1–5

  15. Braitenberg V: Brain size and number of neurons: an exercise in synthetic neuroanatomy. J Comput Neurosci 10(1), 71–77 (2001)

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Braitenberg V (2002) In defense of the cerebellum. Ann N Y Acad Sci 978:175–183

    Google Scholar 

  17. Braitenberg V, Atwood R: Morphological observations on the cerebellar cortex. J Comp Neurol 109(1), 1 (1958)

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Braitenberg V, Braitenberg C: Geometry of orientation columns in the visual cortex. Biol Cybern 33(3), 179–186 (1979)

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Braitenberg V, Guglielmotti V, Sada E: Correlation of crystal growth with the staining of axons by the Golgi procedure. Biotech Histochem 42(6), 277–283 (1967)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Braitenberg V, Heck D, Sultan F (1997) The detection and generation of sequences as a key to cerebellar function: experiments and theory. Behav Brain Sci 20(2):229–245; discussion 245–277

    Google Scholar 

  21. Braitenberg V,Kemali M(1970) Exceptions to bilateral symmetry in the epithalamus of lower vertebrates. J Comp Neurol 138(2):137–146

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Braitenberg V., Schüz A (1983) Some anatomical comments on the Hippocampus. In: Seifert W (ed) Neurobiology of the hippocampus. Academic Press, London

  23. Braitenberg V, Schüz A (1998) Cortex: statistics and geometry of neuronal connectivity. Springer, New York

  24. Franzius M, Sprekeler H, Wiskott L: Slowness and sparesenss lead to place, head-directino, and spatial-view cells. PLoS Comput Biol 3(8), e166 (2007)

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Jeffery KJ, Burgess N (2006) A metric for the cognitive map: found at last? Trends Cogn Sci 10(1):1–3

    Google Scholar 

  26. Merleau-Ponty M (1963) The structure of behavior. Duquesne University Press, Philadelphia

  27. Negrello M: Invariants of behavior. Constancy and variability in neural systems. Springer, New York (2011)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  28. O’Keefe J, Dostrovsky J: The hippocampus as spatial map: preliminary evidence from unit activity in the freely moving rat. Brain Res 34, 171–175 (1971)

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Strausfeld N: Brain organization and the origin of insects: an assessment. Proc R Soc B 276(1664), 1929 (2009)

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Strausfeld N, Hansen L, Li Y, Gomez R, Ito K: Evolution, discovery, and interpretations of arthropod mushroom bodies. Learn Mem 5(1), 11–37 (1998)

    CAS  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Sultan F, Braitenberg V (1993) Shapes and sizes of different mammalian cerebella. A study in quantitative comparative neuroanatomy. J Hirnforsch 34(1):79–92

    Google Scholar 

  32. Wyss R, König P, Verschure PFMJ: Invariant representations of visual patterns in a temporal population code. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108(1), 324–329 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Yamazaki T, Tanaka S (2007) The cerebellum as a liquid state machine. Neural Netw 20(3):290–297

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mario Negrello.

Additional information

This article forms part of a special issue of Biological Cybernetics entitled “Structural Aspects of Biological Cybernetics: Valentino Braitenberg, Neuroanatomy, and Brain Function”.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Negrello, M. Valentino Braitenberg: From neuroanatomy to behavior and back. Biol Cybern 108, 527–539 (2014).

Download citation


  • Neuroscience
  • Neuroanatomy
  • History
  • Braitenberg
  • Behavioral function