The Story of the Renshaw Cell

  • John C. Eccles


The story begins in many apparently unrelated findings. The axon collaterals of neurons had been described by neuroanatomists from the 1890’s on. Then neurophysiologists speculated about the function of motor axon collaterals. In particular Renshaw (1941) depicted motor axon collaterals ending either on motoneurons or adjacent interneurons. Meanwhile there had grown up a literature on the inhibitory action of antidromic impulses in motor axons, the time course being precisely investigated by Renshaw (1941) and by Lloyd (1946). In a later investigation Renshaw (1946) discovered that interneurons in the ventral horn gave an extraordinary high frequency discharge (over 1000/sec) in response to an antidromic volley. Renshaw tentatively suggested that such interneurons could be involved in the antidromic inhibition. I met him in February, 1946 at the Rockefeller Institute. He was an exciting personality who inexplicably left for Portland soon after and there died from a fulminating polio. Strangely enough his story seemed to be dying with him. One knew of these extraordinary interneurons, but suspected that in some way injury by the penetrating microelectrode might be involved.


Ventral Horn Ventral Root Motor Axon Axon Collateral Renshaw Cell 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • John C. Eccles
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut fur Biophysikalische ChemieGöttingenDeutschland

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