Last updated: March 23, 2019
Topic: AnimalsDogs
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Many students who eat a hearty breakfast and do not feel hungry as lunchtime rolls around find themselves rushing to the lunchroom with a ravenous appetite as soon as the bell rings. A typical conditioned response, just as Pavlov’s famous dogs did many years ago. Nobel Prize winning physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, first identified this psychological/physiological phenomenon in the late nineteenth century. Since then, the term “Pavlovian Response” has become synonymous with involuntary conditioned response in both animals and humans.

On September 14, 1849, Ivan Pavlov was born in Ryazan, Russia. His father, Peter Dmitrievich Pavlov, was a priest for the town’s church and after graduating from school, Pavlov attended theological seminary. However, after reading The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin and the writings of famous Russian physiologist, I. M. Sechenov, Pavlov decided to pursue a career in science instead of becoming a priest like his father. While at the University of St.

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Petersburg, Pavlov worked with Elie Cyon on the investigation of pancreatic nerves and received a gold medal honor from the University for his Work. He went on to study at the Military Medical Academy and after finishing his dissertation, Pavlov received his doctor of medicine degree in 1883. Pavlov was able to expand on the works of several leading researchers in order to create his own theories. In 1895, at the St. Petersburg Institute of Experimental Medicine, Pavlov was named Professor of Pharmacology and later was given the title of Professor of Physiology and held that position until 1924.

In 1901, Pavlov was elected as a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. His major accomplishment was winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1904 for his doctoral thesis on the Centrifugal Nerves of the Heart. Pavlov was elected as Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1907 and received an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University in 1912. On the recommendation of the Medical Academy of Paris, Pavlov was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honour in 1915.

Ivan Pavlov’s first major work of study was on the circulation of blood. Pavlov argued that there was a correlation between the blood volume and the blood pressure; He experimented with dogs by first training the animals to lie calmly on an operating table while he cut the skin and surface tissues. He then exposed the artery and connected it to instruments used to measure blood pressure. He also studied the many nervous rhythms and contractions of the heart and the strength of cardiac contractions.

Pavlov focused his research on the correlation between the nervous system and the automatic functions of the body. He studied how certain rhythms of the heart controlled various nerves of the body, which became known as “nervism”. Pavlov theorized that the heart is vital to the nervous system and the nervous system is vital to all bodily functions. Pavlov believed that the functioning of an organism had a great deal to do with the environment of that organism.

This opened a new era in the development of physiology because Pavlov had been the first physiologist to make this correlation. After this first study, Pavlov used anaesthetized, neurologically intact dogs; this became his method of research with all his experiments and has since been called “Pavlov’s Methodology” when used by others. Pavlov expanded on his research and discovered there was a relationship between the nervous system and the digestive system.

Pavlov argued that the nervous system played a key role in operating the digestive process. This theory turned into Pavlov second and most famous work, the “Pavlovian Dogs”. Pavlov is commonly known for his experiment with the now famous dogs and his theory of the relationship between the digestive system and salivation. Pavlov had been deeply interested in the connection between the digestive system and the nervous system; he knew this connection could relate that to the way dogs salivate when they smell meat, or as he proved, do not smell meat.

Pavlov wanted to prove that regardless of the presence of actual food he could successfully make a dog salivate. This theory became known as conditioned response. Pavlov put a dog in a harness so the animal’s salivation could be measured. After ringing a bell, Pavlov would sprinkle meat powder into the room and the dog would start to salivate because he could smell the meat powder. After a couple trials, Pavlov would make a change. Instead of ringing the bell and sprinkling the meat powder, he just ang the bell. The dog performed the same act as when Pavlov had sprinkled the meat powder, the dog would salivate, even though the meat powder was not present. The dog had been conditioned to equate the ringing of the bell with the aroma and anticipation of the meat powder; the dog’s response of salivating had been connected to the bell ringing not the actual meat powder. Pavlov furthered his research to explore the relationship between conditioned responses and the brain.

He successfully proved that there was a way to create or condition a response that would cause the behavior of the organism to become involuntary. Pavlov’s theory of conditioned response could be categorized as both physiological and psychological; his work showed the link between the physical and the mental and changed how the medical community viewed the two as part of a whole instead of being completely separate entities. Ivan Pavlov may have died in Leningrad on February 27, 1936 however, his work lives on as a foundation of modern science.

Pavlov’s dogs from over one hundred years ago and the hungry students filling lunchrooms in today’s school cafeterias could be considered distant cousins – scientifically speaking. Ivan Pavlov, A Man and His Dogs


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