Bekhterev, Vladimir Mikhailovich

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Bekhterev, Vladimir Mikhailovich

(b. Sorali Vyatskaya oblast Russia, 20 January 1857; d. Leningrad, U.S.S.R., 24 December 1927)

neurology, psychology.

After graduating from the Vyatskaya Gymnasium. Bekhterev enrolled at the Medical and Surgical Academy if St. Petersburg in 1873. He graduated in 1878, then prepared for a teaching career in the clinic of I.P. Merzheevsky. In 1881 Bekhterev defended his dissertation for the M.D., which dealt with the possible relation between body temperature and some forms of mental illness, then began work with Flechsig and Meinert, Westfall and Charot, Du Bois-Reymond, and Wundt. In 1885 he was made a professor of psychiatry at Kazan University, where he organized the first laboratory for research on the anatomy and physiology for research on the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system. While in Kazan, Bekhterev completed investigations of the role of the cortex in the regulation of the functions of internal organs and prepared the first edition of the classic monograph Provodyashchie puti spinnogo i golovnogo mozga (“Passages of the Spinal Cord and Cerebrum”) and the two-volume Nervnye bolezni v otdelnykh nablyudeniakh (“Nervous Diseases in Separate Observations”).

From 1893 to 1913, Bekhterev headed the department of nervous and psychic diseases of the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg. During this period he published Osnovy uchenia o funktsiakh mozga (“Foundations of Knowledge About the Functions of the Brain”; 1903-1907). The last ten years of Bekhterev’s life were devoted to the study of “reflexology”(objective psychology) and other areas of psychology.

In the anatomy and physiology of the central nervous system, Bekhterev defined more precisely the path and separation of the posterior rootlets of the spinal cord and described a group of cells on the surface of the shaft of the posterior horn (Bekhterev cells) and the internal bundle of the lateral column. He also described the large bundles of the brain stem and the pia mater nodes of the base of the brain; studied in detail and described the reticular formation (formation reticularis) in 1885; and established the precise location of the taste center within the brain cortex in 1900.

In nervous diseases, Bekhterev isolated a number of reflexes and symptoms that have important diagnostic significance and described new illnesses: numbness of the spine (Bekhterev’s disease), apoplectic hemitonia (hemitonia postapopletica), syphilitic dissipating sclerosis, a special form of facial tic, severe motor ataxia (tabes dorsalistrans), acroerythrosis, chorenic epilepsy (epilepsia choreica), and new phobias and obsessive states.

Bekhterev was a great organizer who created centers for the study of the neurological sciences and psychic illnesses—the Psychoneurological Institute, in 1908, and the State Institute for the Study of the Brain in St. Petersburg, which today bears his name. He also was the founder of the first Russian journals on nervous and psychic diseases: Nevrologicheskii vestnih and Obozrenie psikhiatrii, nevrologii i eksperimentalnoy psikhologii.


I. Original Works. Among Bekhterev’s 800 or so publications are “O prodolnykh voloknakh setevidnoy formatsy na osnovany isseldovania xsikh razvitia i O soedineniakh setchatogo yadra pokryshki” (“About the Longitudinal Fibers of the Reticular Formation, on the Basis of an Investigation of Their Development, and About the Junctions of the Retinal Nucleus of the Cover”), in Vrach, no. 6(1885); Provodyashchie puti spinnogo i golovnogo mozga. Rukovodstvo k izucheniyu vnutrennikh svyazey mozga (“Passages of the Spinal Cord and Cerebrum. Handbook Toward the Study of the Internal Connections of the Brain”), 2nd ed., rev. and enl., 2 vols. (St. Petersburg, 1896-1898): Osnovy uchenia o funktsiakh mozga (“Foundations of Knowledge About the Functions of the Brain”), 7 vols. (St. Petersburg, 1903-1907); Zadachi i metod obektivnoy psikhology (“The Tasks and Method of Objective Psychology”; St. Petersburg, 1909); Obshchaya diagnostika bolezney nervnoy sistemy (“General Diagnostics of Diseases of the Nervous System”), 2 vols. (Petrograd, 1911-1915); Obshchie osnovy refleksology cheloveka (rukovodstvo k obektivnomu izucheniyu lichnosti) (“General Foundations of the Reflexology of Man [Handbook Toward the Objective Study of Personality]”), 3rd ed. (Petrograd, 1926); Avtobiografia (Posmertnaya) (“Autobiography [Posthumous]”; Moscow, 1928); Mozg i ego deyatelnost (“The Brain and Its Activity”), L. V. Gerver, ed. (Moscow–Leningrad, 1928); and Izbrannyeproizvedenia (stati i dokladr) (“Selected Works [Articles and Reports]”), ed. with introductory articles by V. N. Myasishchev (Moscow, 1951).

II. Secondary Literature. Works on Bekhterev are V.D. Dmitriev, Vydayushchysya russky ucheny V.M. Bekhterev (“The Outstanding Russian Scientist V.M. Bekhterev”; Cheboskary, Chuvash Autonomous SSR, 1960); N.I. Grashchenkov, Rol V.M. Bekhtereva v razvity otechestvennoy nevrology (“The Role of V.M. Bekhterev in the Development of National Neurology”; Mosecow, 1959); V.N. Myasishchev and T.Y. Khvilivitsky, eds.,“V.M. Bekhterev i sovremennye problemy stroenia i funktsy mozga v norme i patology. Trudy vsesoyuznoy konferentsy posvyashchennoy stoletiyu so dnya rozhdenia V.M. Bekhtereva (“V.M. Bekhterev and Modern Problems of the Structure and Functions of the All-Union Conference of V.M. Bekhterev”; Leningrad, 1959); V.P. Osipov, Bekhterev (Moscow, 1947); and Sbornik, posvyashchenny Vladimiru Mikhailovichu Bekhterevu. K 40-letiyu professorskoy deyatelnosti (1885-1925) (“A Collection Dedicated to Vladimir Mikhailovich Bekhterev. On the 40th Anniversary of His Professorial Career [1885-1925]”; Leningrad, 1926).

N. Grigoryan