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The syncytial theory of neural development was proposed by Victor Hensen in 1864 to explain the growth and differentiation of the nervous system. This theory has since been discredited, although it held a significant following at the turn of the twentieth century. Neural development was well studied but poorly understood, so Hensen proposed a simple model of development. The syncytial theory predicted that the nervous system was composed of many neurons with shared cytoplasm.
This image shows a chicken (Gallus gallus) embryo undergoing gastrulation in stage four (18-19 hrs after laying) according to the Hamburger-Hamilton staging series. At this point in time the chicken embryo is a blastoderm (shown in blue). The first magnification of the embryo shows that the blastoderm cell layers have thickened to form the primitive streak and Hensen's node. The primitive streak extends from the posterior (P) region to the anterior (A) region. The second rectangular magnification shows the blastoderm cross-sectioned through the primitive streak.