Reflexes of the Brain
An Attempt to Establish the Physiological Basis of Psychological Processes
Little known in this country and not genera;;y available in English, I/ M/ Sechenov's Reflexes of the Brain was first published in Russia more than one hundred years ago, in 1863. The original title of the work, which failed to win the approval of the tsarist censor of that day, helps express the purpose of the book: An Attempt to Establish the Physiological Basis of Psychological Processes.
In Reflexes of the Brain, Sechenov (1829-1905) advanced ideas that were quite novel for the time: that psychological life is inconceivable without stimulation of the sense organs; the initial cause of any human action lies outside man, and without external sensory stimuli psychological activity is impossible for even a single moment. Sechenov advanced the bold proposition that the principal forms of psychological activity can be regarded as reflex processes; that all acts of conscious and unconscious life are reflexes. In his History of Experimental Psychology, Professor E. G. Boring writes: “Thus Sechenov... the Russian pioneer in reflexology... was far ahead of Western European thought on this matter.”
Sechenov, besides discovering an inhibitory center in the brain (named after him) is important in yet other ways. Professor Asratyan labels Sechenov “the recognized father of Russian physiology” and also states that “Pavlov may be rightfully call Sechenov's disciple.” The author of Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, Norbert Wiener, and Sechenov, who wrote almost one hundred years earlier that “... to every naturalist the idea of the, machine nature of the brain is a godsend,” belong to the same intellectual tradition.