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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a motor conditioned reflex by which an animal uses a lever to stimulate electrically the lower brain centers, including the rewarding center and the centers of stimulation and satisfaction. This phenomenon was discovered in rats by the American scientist J. Olds and the Canadian scientist P. Milner in 1954 and was subsequently reproduced in cats, dogs, dolphins, monkeys, and other animals. In many cases it was possible to show a connection between self-stimulation and the motivations of hunger, thirst, and sex, which made it possible to study self-stimulation as an artificial (imaginary) satiation. No such connection was observed in other cases, which indicated that the nerve apparatus of positive emotions in the hypothalamus and other parts of the brain was to a certain degree morphologically and physiologically independent. Human patients whose lower brain centers were stimulated for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes often reported feeling strong positive emotions and a sense of satisfaction and elation. This finally confirmed the relationship between self-stimulation and the lower brain centers of positive emotions.

Self-stimulation as a specific form of behavior has some characteristic features. When their satisfying brain centers are first stimulated by an electric current, animals start making searching movements, sniffing, and intensively exploring the environment. They quickly learn to receive self-stimulation by pressing the lever to close the electric circuit. Prolonged stimulation of the centers of satisfaction produces an emotionally negative response, and the animal will terminate stimulation by moving away from the lever. When the electric current is completely turned off, the self-stimulation conditioned reflex is usually quickly forgotten, and after several trials the animal ceases to press on the lever. Thus, self-stimulation does not become a habit, and the animal readily tolerates its cessation.

Changes in the electrical activity of the brain and the functions of the internal organs, for example, breathing, pulse rate, and blood pressure, during self-stimulation significantly differ from the aftereffects of the stimulation of the centers of the negative emotions of fear and pain. It is therefore possible to speak of the special state of the emotionally positive activation of the highest divisions of the central nervous system. Self-stimulation is a valuable experimental model with which to study the physiology of positive emotions and their effect on the activity of the brain and the body as a whole.


Bekhtereva, N. P. Neirofiziologicheskie aspekty psikhicheskoi deiatel’nosti cheloveka. Leningrad, 1971.
Mikhailova, N. G. “Elektroentsefalograficheskie i vegetativnye korreliaty reaktsii samorazdrazheniia,” Zhurnal vysshei nervnoi deiatel’nosti, 1971, vol. 21, issue 1.
Milner, P. Fiziologicheskaia psikhologiia. Moscow, 1973. Pages 470–513. (Translated from English.)
Sem-Jacobsen, C. W. Depth-Electrographic Stimulation of the Human Brain and Behavior. Springfield, 111. [1968].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The most common technique was kneeling while straddling his body, which allowed access for self-stimulation or partner stimulation.
Early experiments by Olds and Milner and later by many others using intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) of the MFB set the ground for research into the neurobiology of addiction, reward, and motivation [43-45].
These areas of questioning also normalize discussion of the patient's sexual repertoire (what activities he [she] does and avoids), reviews qualities of the sexual relationship, and broaches the issue of self-stimulation.
Self-stimulation can be defined as motivating oneself with specific intentions; having stability, determination, and entrepreneurship.
In this case, we sought to determine which stimuli would reduce stimulation deprivation (which is the logical establishing operation for self-stimulation in automatic reinforcement) when delivered noncontingently.
These topics included self-stimulation, homosexuality, and alternate lifestyles, and some participants chose not to answer these questions at all.
Self-stimulation: Rocking and hand-flapping; stereotyped behaviors; hand-clapping; object-mouthing; thumb-sucking; and excessive alcohol consumption.
Since self-stimulation can be potentially harmful to the student as a learner and to the individual as a peer, a number of studies have investigated procedures that could decrease this behavior.
For one thing, it is doubtful that self-stimulation could generate sustained trains of intelligent thought.
The first is self-stimulation. It won't tick the same boxes as intimate sex with another person, but is certainly one way to reduce your body's natural libido.
Autism is all about self-involvement, self-inclusion and self-stimulation. People with autism retreat into their own world and appear not to be interested in our world.
Hogan fondled himself, over and under his "scrub" pants, while asking her personal questions about her sex life and espousing the benefits of self-stimulation during an office visit, court records show.