Russian Scientist Ivan Pavlov – the Steward of Physiology

Pavlov developed the theory of higher nervous activity, because of which during the largest international congress his colleagues unanimously named Ivan Pavlov “The steward of physiology.”

Study of an Organism under Natural Conditions

Ivan Pavlov offered and actively used himself the so-called method of natural science expertise, which allowed minimizing the influence of experimental conditions on its results. That means that ideally the experiment’s equipment should not in any way interfere with a living body of the experiment.

Before Pavlovexperiments on animals were conducted under the conditions of surgical intervention, which was not natural.

A modern example of everyday use of the principles of Ivan Pavlov in medicine –is readings of cardiac activity of a patient over time using a regular everyday bracelet. Such bracelet does not reduce the quality of human life during its use.

Russian Scientist Ivan Pavlov

Portrait of Ivan Pavlov, 1930 / Mikhail Nesterov

Pavlov Experiments on the Physiology of Blood Circulation

Pavlov discovered that blood pressure is regulated by receiving the signals from nerves, which are abundant in the circulatory system. As a result of changes in the state of the vessels, the mechanisms are triggered that change how the heart works and the vascular system.

Pavlov proved brilliantly that nerves are involved in the regulation of the heart activity, and he also defined the types of nervous control.

Pavlov’s dogs – Experiments on the Physiology of Digestion

First, Pavlov studied the work of salivary glands. He established a relationship between the amount of saliva and the irritant (type of food).

With regards to the stomach Pavlov proved that the process of digestion is regulated by the “instructions” of the nervous system.

These are those most famous experiments with “Pavlov’s dogs”, when dogs saw something tasty and they started salivating secreting gastric juice. At that moment Pavlov turned on a light bulb. Then, without the “tasty treat” and only when the light bulb went on, the dogs still began salivating and secreting gastric juice. The explanation of this phenomenon is in the next section.

Pavlov Experiments on the Physiology of Higher Nervous Activity

Pavlov, when explaining the reaction of digestion system in dogs at turning the light bulb on, introduced the concept of conditional or acquired reflex. Conditional reflex can weaken. For example, if a dog, when the light goes on, does not get food, then gradually the saliva will stop developing.

Pavlov introduced such concepts as reinforcement, unconditional and conditional reflexes.

Of course, the conditional reflex is an amazing, powerful natural adaptive mechanism. Indeed, once burned, a child will be careful with fire. But sometimes the conditional reflex plays a cruel joke on humans. Imagine that a young man wants to introduce himself to a young girl. She decides to refuse him. And here we see the formation of a conditional reflex: in the future when this young man when seeing an attractive that he likes might feel embarrassed before even speaking to her. Yes, in the future, all the educated young men during such an episode of embarrassment should immediately recall the experiments of Ivan Pavlov, and aggressively try to accelerate the weakening of the conditional reflex (embarrassment) in the name of improving the demographic situation in the world.


His international fame protected Pavlov from political persecution, although the position of Pavlov towards the Soviet government was critical. On the contrary, to ensure that Pavlov’s work continued, a special decree was issued and subsequently an institution was established.

The works by the Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine Ivan Pavlov have led to the emergence of new scientific schools in medicine, biology and psychiatry.


To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev


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