Berlin: August Hirschwald, 1863. 8vo. [iv], 51 pp. FIRST EDITION. Wrappers; a fine copy in folding case. Item #12919
First edition of this extraordinarily rare treatise on the reflexes of the brain, a pioneer work on cerebral reflex activity. According to Sechenov, higher brain function, including any so-called voluntary act, was basically reflex in nature for it was a response to sensory stimulation which led to a motor act. "Thus the nervous system as a whole functioned exclusively by means of reflex activity: lower or spinal reflexes, and cerebral or "psychic" reflexes which included emotions and thoughts" (Clarke & O'Malley, p. 362). "Sechenov considered cerebral reflex activity the source of voluntary actions. Stimulations, according to him, arise in the peripheral sense organs and are mediated to the psychic realm, which determines the nature of muscular response. Absence of all senses would thus make psychic life impossible. However, the reflex activity itself is regulated by other cerebral centers (especially that in the mid-brain), which serve in an inhibitory capacity" (Haymaker & Schiller).
Sechenov (1829-1905), the father of Russian physiology, laid the foundation for the study of reflexes, animal and human behaviour, and neuroscience. He showed that brain activity is linked to electric currents and was the first to introduce electrophysiology. Among his discoveries was the cerebral inhibition of spinal reflexes, and described how the physiochemical factors in the environment of the cell are of equal if not greater importance.