Understanding the Brain

Llinás' law

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Llinás' law, or law of no interchangeability of neurons, is a law of neuroscience which was asserted by Rodolfo Llinás in 1989, when he was awarded with the Luigi Galvani Lecture and Award in the Fidia Research Foundation Neuroscience Award Lectures .[1]

A neuron of a given kind(e.g. a thalamic cell) cannot be funtionally replaced by one of another type(e.g. an inferior ollivary cell) even their synaptic connectivity and the type of neurotranmitter outputs are identicall (The difference is that the intrinsic electrophysiological properties of thalamic cells are extraordinarelly different from those of inferior olivary neurons ).

The statement of this law is a consequence of the article written by the own Rodolfo Llinas in 1988 and published in Science with the title "The Intrinsic Electrophysiological Properties of Mammalian Neurons: Insights into Central Nervous System Function", which is considered a manifesto due to its more than 1250 citations in the scientific literature, that marks the change of the point of view in neuroscience in the functional aspect. Until then, the dogma of neuroscience dictated that only the connections and neurotransmitters released by neurons determine the function of a neuron. Research by Llinás with its partners during the 80's about vertebrates revealed that the previously held dogma was wrong.


  1. Llinás, Rodolfo (1990). «Intrinsic Electrical Properties of Mammalian Neurons and CNS Function». Fidia Research Foundation Neuroscience Award Lectures, 1988-1989 (Raven Press) 4: p. 175.