In his 1907 paper, "Experiments in Transplanting Limbs and Their Bearing Upon the Problems of the Development of Nerves," in the Journal of Experimental Zoology that he edited, Ross Granville Harrison tested the development of nerves in transplanted tissue. He studied neural development by examining two competing theories. Victor Hensen proposed a syncytial theory as a way to explain neural development, suggesting that all the nerves of an embryo were connected directly by cytoplasm laid down early in development, and leaving no room for later modification. Santiago Ramón y Cajal proposed a competing outgrowth theory that nerves develop from the central nervous system, pushing through tissues by growing nerve fibers and growth cones. Harrison's experiment refuted many of the claims of the syncytial theory although it did not produce evidence that could directly prove the outgrowth theory.

In "The Outgrowth of the Nerve Fiber as a Mode of Protoplasmic Movement," Ross Granville Harrison explores the growth of nerve fibers in vitro. The purpose of this experiment was to test two possible hypotheses for the growth of nerve fibers. Santiago Ramón y Cajal suggested that nerve growth is due to the extension of nerve fibers as they push through tissue. Victor Hensen's syncytial theory proposed an opposing view of nerve growth. He proposed that each neuron was connected by threads of cytoplasm and the successful connections stimulated further differentiation of the correct neural connections. Using hanging drop tissue cultures, Harrison provided significant evidence for Ramón y Cajal's theory by showing discrete cell membranes between cells and observing the growth of individual neurons.

A pioneer in experimental embryology, Ross Granville Harrison made numerous discoveries that advanced biology. One of the most significant was his adaptation of the hanging drop method from bacteriology to carry out the first tissue culture. This method allowed for further studies in embryology as well as experimental improvements in oncology, virology, genetics, and a number of other fields. Prior to Harrison's innovation, a number of scientists, including Julius Arnold, Gustav Born, Leo Loeb, and Gottlieb Haberlandt, had attempted to grow tissues in isolation in vitro and in vivo but with much less success than Harrison. In addition, Harrison contributed to the understanding of organization and differentiation.