Nervism

Nervism

 

the theory that the nervous system plays the dominant role in the regulation of the physiological functions and processes that occur in animals and man.

Based on the research of I. M. Sechenov, the concept of nervism was introduced into physiology by I. P. Pavlov in 1883. Sechenov’s research, S. P. Botkin’s clinical applications of nervism, and the investigations of Pavlov and his school developed into the scientific tradition in Russian and Soviet physiology by which the nervous system is studied. The idea that the nervous system plays an important and even dominant role in regulating functions was persistently developed by Pavlov in his studies on the physiology of blood circulation and digestion. Pavlov’s teachings on higher nervous activity contain the most brilliant and completely developed statement of nervism. Pavlov wrote in 1935, “the more developed the nervous system becomes in an animal, the more centralized it is and the more its highest division acts as the director and distributor of all the functions of the organism. . . . This highest division controls all the phenomena that originate in the body” (I. P. Pavlov, Poln. sobr. trudov, vol. 1, 1940, p. 410).

The importance of the nervous system was observed even earlier by several investigators, including F. Magendie in 1830 and C. Bernard in 1866 and 1867. Nevertheless, Pavlov is indisputably credited with formulating and confirming the principle of nervism.

Nervism strongly influenced the development of physiology in the USSR and was reflected and elaborated in the works of many of Pavlov’s students and followers, including K. M. Bykov, L. A. Orbeli, A. D. Speranskii, N. E. Vvedenskii, A. A. Ukhtomskii, and I. S. Beritashvili. However, after the joint session that took place in 1950 between the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR, the idea of nervism was unjustifiably overemphasized by some physiologists. As a result, the role of humoral and hormonal regulation was underestimated and neglected. Given O. Loewi’s discovery in 1921 of the chemical link between the nervous system and the heart and given the discovery of the chemical nature of the linking transmitters, it is fallacious to contrast the influence of the nervous system with the action of humoral or hormonal factors. Consequently, the modern concept of neurohumoral regulation, which is widely accepted, assigns an important role to both nervous regulation and humoral-hormonal factors in the control of physiological processes.

V. N. CHERNIGOVSKII

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