From Descartes to Pavlov to Anokhin: The Evolution of General Systems Concepts in Biomedical Sciences in Eastern Europe

  • Samuel A. Corson
  • Elizabeth O’Leary Corson


Rene Descartes developed a mechanistic notion of reflex action in an attempt to describe automatic acts of “soulless” machine-like “unfeeling” animals, in contrast to rational voluntary behavior of humans directed by a “soul” via the pineal gland. In contradistinction to Cartesian dualism, Pavlov introduced the monistic concept of an integrated organism (theory of nervism) and of conditional reflexes enabling all animals to modify their behavior in response to changing environmental situations. This presentation will discuss the expansion of Pavlovian psychobiology by P.K. Anokhin to include the application of systems concepts to psychophysiologic adaptation and the notion of the functional system as the basic unit of neurophysiology integration.


Pineal Gland System Concept Cartesian Dualism Brain Research Institute Biological Thinking 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel A. Corson
    • 1
  • Elizabeth O’Leary Corson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Department of Educational Theory and Practice Upham HallThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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