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Nikolai Alexandrovich Bernstein (1896–1966) is well known today primarily for formulating the problem of redundant degrees of freedom and their elimination in motor control, as well as his hierarchical theory of movement coordination. This paper aims to uncover new pages in the biography of N.A. Bernstein, based on materials from the archive of his nephew Alexander Sergeevich Bernstein, as well as recent interviews with the former pupils of N.A. Bernstein. Concentrated around several interdisciplinary seminars, they grew into a young generation of physiologists in the late sixties and made remarkable contributions inspired by Bernstein’s new principles of neuroscience. These include the discovery of the spinal automatism of stepping in the cat, the “equilibrium point” hypothesis, the hindlimb wiping reflex of the frog as an example of a targeted trajectory organized at the spinal level, and the probabilistic prognosis in human activity. © 2015, Springer International Publishing Switzerland, All rights Reserved.
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1New Pages in the Biography
2of Nikolai Alexandrovich Bernstein
3Vera L. Talis
4It seemsthat the fundamental questions raised by Bernstein in
51962 remain equally fundamental and equally unanswered
620 years later. We may optimistically suggest that they will
7provide many individuals with a way to pass the time for the
8next 20 years (Agarwail and Gottlieb [1])
10 At present, theoretical neuroscience may be considered an
11 independent branch of brain science. The importance of the
12 studies by N.A. Bernstein in this respect may be compared to the
13 importance of Maimonidesreform of Judaism, Luthers reform
14 of Christianity, or Maxwells revolution in physics (Latash [2])
23 Abstract Nikolai Alexandrovich Bernstein (18961966) is well known today
24 primarily for formulating the problem of redundant degrees of freedom and their
25 elimination in motor control, as well as his hierarchical theory of movement coor-
26 dination. This paper aims to uncover new pages in the biography of N.A. Bernstein,
27 based on materials from the archive of his nephew Alexander Sergeevich Bernstein,
28 as well as recent interviews with the former pupils of N.A. Bernstein. Concentrated
29 around several interdisciplinary seminars, they grew into a young generation of
30 physiologists in the late sixties and made remarkable contributions inspired by
31 Bernsteins new principles of neuroscience. These include the discovery of the
32 spinal automatism of stepping in the cat, the equilibrium pointhypothesis, the
33 hindlimb wiping reex of the frog as an example of a targeted trajectory organized at
34 the spinal level, and the probabilistic prognosis in human activity.
35 Keywords Motion Neuroscience Motor control Physiology
V.L. Talis (&)
Institute for Information Transmission Problems (Kharkevich Institute),
Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia
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©Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
M. Nadin (ed.), Anticipation: Learning from the Past,
Cognitive Systems Monographs 25, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-19446-2_18
37 1 Introduction
38 Only a great optimist might think that science beneted from the fact that Nikolai
39 Alexandrovich Bernstein (18961966) was red from all his positions at the end of
40 the 1940s. It was after this that he started working on his nal articles and books,
41 and summarizing experimental material that he had gathered before, as well as the
42 data of young researchers who visited him at home. It is possible, however, that if it
43 were not for this fact, Bernstein would have not become an icon at the beginning of
44 the 1960s, when the worldwide interest in cybernetics reached Russia [3]. In this
45 paper, we intend to reveal new pages of Bernsteins biography, reected in his
46 letters and interviews with his pupils and relatives. After half a century from his
47 death, they considered themselves lucky to have known a man of genius.
48 2 Childhood and Youth
49 Bernstein descended from a family of doctors. His father Alexander Nikolaevich
50 Bernstein (18701922) was not only a well-known Moscow physician, but also a
51 broadly educated scholar who laid foundations for the specialization and progress
52 of Russian psychiatry. Nikolais grandfather Nathan Osipovich Bernstein was the
53 chairman of the Odessa Society of Physicians.
54 In 1913, Nikolai graduated from high school with a silver medal and was
55 accepted at the Department of History and Philology of Moscow University. He
56 was interested in languages and philosophy. But in August 1914 the war broke out.
57 Like the rest of the country, the young generation of the Bernstein family was swept
58 by a wave of patriotism. Nikolai transferred to the Medical Department of the
59 University. In the fall of 1914, he began the new school year as a medical student.
60 In the spring of 1919, he graduated from the First Moscow University, obtained his
61 medical degree, and was drafted into the Red Army as a doctor [4,5]. In spring
62 1921, Bernstein came back from the front. His father helped him to get a job in the
63 eld, and he became a physician at the Gilyarovsky Psychiatric Clinic. After his
64 fathers death in 1922, he took over his practice. However, in August 1922, he met
65 Alexey Kapitonovich Gastevand so began Bernsteins famous period of work at
66 the Central Institute of Labor (Fig. 1).
67 As for Sergei Alexandrovich Bernstein, he kept the railroad passion inherited
68 from his mother Aleksandra Karlovna Bernstein (nee Ioganson, 18671941) and
69 her father, a lineman on the railway. By 1921, Sergei graduated from the
70 Department of Physics and Mathematics of Moscow University, and in 1926 from
71 the Moscow Railroad Institute. During his studies at Moscow University he met
72 Tatyana Popova (see the history of her family in [6]) and married her in 1922. Later
73 on, she would join Bernsteins lab at the Central Institute of Labor.
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74 3 After 1922
75 Tatyana Popova wrote the following to her husband Sergei Bernstein in 1924:
76 The Central Institute of Labor is a new InstituteEverything is done in a new manner, not in
77 the way it was done by the bourgeoisie. The Institute is striving to introduce science into
78 production. The interests of the director are those of a metalworker, therefore the Institute
79 studies mostly the work of a metalworker and his two main procedures: chiseling and ling [4].
80 In 1925, Bernstein left the Central Institute of Labor, and over the next decade or
81 so assumed multiple positions at various institutions, including the Institute of
82 Psychology (19251927), State Institute of Labor Preservation (19271933), State
83 Institute of Musical Sciences (Gosudarstvennyi Institut Musikalnikh Nauk”—
84 GIMN) (19281940), Scientic Research Bureau Of Prosthetic Appliances
85 (19321940), the All-Union Institute of Experimental Medicine (19331937),
86 Central Institute of Physical Culture (Centralinyi Nauchno-Issledovatelskyi Institut
87 Fizkulturi”—CNIIFK) (19361941).
88 All this time Tatyana Bernstein, née Popova (19021992), worked with Nikolai
89 Bernstein and was one of his main assistants. They left the Central Institute of
90 Labor together to continue their joint work on nger and hand movements of piano
91 players, hand stamp (19271929), and the locomotion of children (up until 1940).
92 With N.A. Bernstein and Z.V. Mogilanskaya, Popova developed a methodology
93 for analyzing biomechanical measurements [7,8]. She continued her work on child
94 locomotion after 1943, but stopped working and devoted herself fully to the family
95 at the end of 1947 (from the interview with A.S. Bernstein, 2010). Her husband
96 Sergei Alexandrovich Bernstein was already ill in 1947 and died in 1958, at the age
97 of 56. His collected works were published after his death [9].
Fig. 1 Alexander Nikolaevich Bernstein with his sons Nikolai and Sergei, 1916 (courtesy of
A.S. Bernstein)
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98 The broad scope of Nikolai Bernsteins and Popovas research required partic-
99 ipants to be well acquainted with the works of the best physiology laboratories
100 worldwide. In 1929, Bernstein traveled abroad for three months. He visited Institut
101 Pasteur, Institut de Marey, Laboratoire de psychotechnique (of J.-M. Lahy
) at the
102 Hospital St.Anne in Paris. For most of his time in Europe in 1929, he worked at the
103 Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Arbeitpsychologie in Dortmund due to long-term
104 contact with Edgar Atzler (editor of the journal Arbeitsphysiologie). Bernstein
105 also visited Albrecht Bethe and Ernst Simontons lab in Frankfurt. In Paris and
106 Dortmund, Bernstein delivered lectures and demonstrated the use of cyclogram-
107 metry methods and devices [5].
108 During this trip, Nikolai wrote personal letters daily to his wife and colleague
109 Anna Isaakovna Rudnik, brother Sergei, sister-in-law Tatyana Popova, and mother
110 Alexandra Karlovna. In one of his letters he wrote:
111 They keep saying at Laugiers
that a biomechanics branch [of the Moscow Institute, VT]
112 will be formed here. They may even send some people to study in Moscow. In any case, we
113 are working on this! . On Monday Ill see Langevin,
and Ive started packing my
114 Parisian possessions. Its time to move on! Dear Nyuta, please, go through the drawers 1 or
115 2 of my desk and try to nd the drafts of the captions to the gures of the French article
116 Dig thoroughly and send them to me in Dortmund. Further, in drawer 4 there must be a
117 thick envelope that has the copies of the GIMN curves. Please send me Igumnovs
118 accelerando, or if its reprint is missing, the German copy of the GIMN article. Further, ask
119 Tatyana to get from drawer 6 the analysis of the pathological image negative that she made.
120 Then have her draw it again in detail for copying, indicating the period of the double step,
121 the f
curve, and send it to me (26/X,1929, to A. I. Rudnik).
122 The picture of the table with the numbering of the drawers was enclosed with the
123 letter. About the meeting with Langevin Bernstein wrote:
124 This morning I went to see old LangevinHe was very nice and attentive. I didnt feel
125 shy while speaking with him and told him in French freely everything I needed. I showed
126 him the atlas
which he, being a physicist, quickly understood and then told him about the
127 difculties (fundamental ones) that we face in mathematical analysis and integration. He
128 grasps quickly and accurately everything you tell him (much quicker and more subtly than
129 uncle Seryozha, entre nous) (28/X, 1929).
130 Sergei Nathanovich Bernstein (18801968), mentioned as uncle Seryozha in this
131 letter (partly published in [10]), was the uncle of Nikolai and Sergei, the younger
132 brother of his father. He was a great mathematician who in his youth presented a
133 solution to Hilberts 19th problem, only four years after David Hilberts presen-
134 tation of his famous paper on 23 unsolved mathematical problems!
135 The method of cyclogrammetry elaborated by Bernstein at the Central Institute
136 of Labor (19211925) allowed him to register movement kinematics with
Lahy, Jean-Maurice (18721943)French psychologist and sociologist.
Laugier, Henri (18881973)French physiologist, the rst director of CNRS (19391942).
Langevin, Paul (18721946)prominent French physicist.
Igumnov, Кonstantin Nikolaevich (18731948)famous Russian pianist.
Atlas des Ganges und Laufes des Menschen“—unpublished, now in Dortmund.
316 V.L. Talis
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137 150200 frames/s. In 1928 Bernstein wrote [11], While studying the movement
138 biodynamics involved in cutting with a chisel, I was able to show that it is impossible
139 to alter selectively any one given detail in this movement without affecting others.
140 Bernstein concluded that the joints were not acting independently but correcting
141 each others errors. This observation suggested that the central nervous system
142 (CNS) does not follow a unique solution to the problem over repetitive strikes, but
143 rather uses a whole variety of joint trajectories to assure more accurate (less variable)
144 performance of the task [12]. The analysis of labor movementsdynamics showed
145 that inertial forces are the dominant factors the CNS must control to produce accurate
146 movement [13]. In the mid-1930s, Bernstein stated that the reex is not an element
147 of an action, but an elementary action[14], thus showing his critical attitude to
148 generalizing the reex theory of Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (18491936) (Figs. 2and 3).
149 In 1935 Bernstein summarized the principle of equal simplicityin his paper
150 [15]. Bernstein presented this paper to Norbert Wiener in 1960 [10], which proves
151 how important it was for him. The principle of equal simplicitystates that a given
152 objective, for example making circular movements with an outstretched arm, can be
153 performed with equal ease (or simplicity) in front of or sideward of the body. This
154 is not a trivial observation considering that the execution of circular movements in
155 different work spaces requires different sets of muscles. Bernstein reasoned that a
156 stored movement engram used to launch an intentional motor act does not include
157 the metric denition of the muscle actions required for goal achievement.
158 According to Bernstein, motor control is thus organized in at least two different
159 hierarchical levels: upper, goal-related level(s) and lower level(s) responsible for
160 metric execution. Nowadays this principle has been conrmed by studies in
161 monkeys performing a bimanual task, where metric changes in action execution
162 were induced by constraints or lesions of the supplementary motor area. In both
163 situations, however, bimanual coordination remained uncompromised [16].
164 Analyzing skilled, least automaticperformance, Bernstein formulated the
165 essential problem of motor control as that of overcoming the redundant degrees of
166 freedom of our movement organs, i.e. turning the movement organs into control-
167 lable systems. Later on in the 1960s, when Bernstein died, his pupils used to call
168 the problem of control in a system with many degrees of freedom the Bernstein
169 problem(from the interview with Berkinblit, 2010)a term now widely employed
170 in the literature [1719]. In 1939, Bernstein started to write his main book On the
171 Construction of Movements, where he formulated the hierarchical theory of motor
172 coordination.
A detailed thesis of the rst chapters of the book was published in
173 the journal Theory and Practice of Physical Culturein 1940, but the work was
174 interrupted by the Second World War.
In 1945, the book was already in press, but
Let us note here that Bernstein himself named this book in English On the Structure of
In September 1941, Bernsteins family was evacuated to the city of Ulan Ude in Siberia, the
capital of Buryat Mongolian Autonomous Republic of USSR. It was impossible to continue
research there. Bernstein became the head of the Department of Biology at the Pedagogical
Institute, and gave lectures on human anatomy, histology, and general physiology. In his free time,
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Fig. 2 The Central Institute of Labor (N.A. Bernstein in the center), 1923 (courtesy of
A.I. Smirnov)
Fig. 3 The registration of striking piano keys. The transfer of the middle nger of right hand for
the octave (C2C3 and back) by the motion of the forearm and hand, 1925 (courtesy of
A.I. Smirnov)
(Footnote 7 continued)
he put together the Five-place decimal logarithm tables for numbers from 1 up to 10
based on
his own calculations, which was the sole work indexed in his bibliography of 1942. At the same
time, his brother Sergei moved to Tashkent where his Academy of Armed Forces was housed at
the time. The living conditions were better there, and he arranged for Nikolais family to move to
Tashkent in September 1942. While there, Bernstein worked at the Republican Sanitary Institute of
the Ministry of Health of the Uzbek Republic. In June 1943, after the course of the war had shifted,
Bernstein was able to return to Moscow.
318 V.L. Talis
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175 it was published only in 1947, bearing a dedication to the blessed, everlasting
176 memory of comrades who perished for the Soviet Motherland.Bernstein was
177 awarded the highest scientic prize of the USSR, the Stalin Prize for this work in
178 the following year. At that time Bernstein was married to his second wife and
179 colleague Natalya Alexandrovna Gurvich (19121968) and had a son Alexander
180 (19381993).
181 4 After 1948
182 The end of 1948 and the beginning of 1949 was a crucial time in the life of
183 Bernstein. In March 1949 he was forced to leave the Moscow Institute of Prosthetic
184 Appliances, in April 1949the CNIIFK. He was dismissed from all the labora-
185 tories that he had created, and his experiments were stopped. Daniella Ginzburg,
186 Bernsteins post-graduate student at that time recalled: The witch-huntgrew
187 worse, involving more and more people, and ruining their reputations. People were
188 divided into two campsdecent and indecent. At the beginning of 1949, the
189 infamous anti-Semitic campaign against cosmopolitismbroke out. At the Institute
190 of Physical Culture the atmosphere was much worse than in Moscow University,
191 where I had studied before, given the intellectual and cultural level of its staff. At
192 the all-Institute meeting, the faculty-athletes called Nikolai Alexandrovich an
193 uprooted cosmopolite.When Bernstein was allowed to speak, he said: Why do
194 you call me an uprooted cosmopolite? I know my father and even my grandfather
195 very well. My father was a famous Moscow physician. Therefore I cannot be an
196 uprooted cosmopolite.I recall another absurd criticism: he was accused of being
197 that very Bernstein who had revised the teaching of Marx. The confusion happened
198 because the name of the German social democrat was familiar from the class of
199 Marxism-Leninismthat everybody had taken, whereas in fact, he was just a
200 namesake of Nikolai Alexandrovich. When his laboratory members were asked to
201 speak at the meeting, everybody was expected to throw a stoneat Nikolai
202 Alexandrovich. I was very young, and a recent student. Marxism was fresh in my
203 memory. I just named the dates of life of the Bernstein who had revised Marx, so
204 that they could compare those dates if they hadnt forgotten simple arithmetic that
205 was taught in secondary school.I put it exactly this way. As a result, I was
206 expelled from Komsomol and also from post-graduate course. It was not a purely
207 anti-Semitic action; it was rather a persecution of an outstanding scientist mixed
208 with envy and complete lack of understanding. It was as if a doctor who was
209 treating people with cholera during an epidemic was accused by ignorant peasants
210 of infecting them(from the interview with D.A. Ginzburg, 2009) (Figs. 4and 5).
211 Iosif Feigenbergthe rst biographer of Bernstein, wrote in his book [5]: Until
212 1948 at least several signicant publications by Bernstein would appear in scientic
213 journals every year. But now his articles are being rejected. In 1949 only a 2-page
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214 thesis of his presentation is published by the Institute of Physical Culture. After that
215 complete silence for 4 years (19501953). However, even after Stalins death and a
216 period of thawthat came with it, the publication of Bernsteins essential works
217 remains impossible.Only in 1961 the conspiracy of silencethat lasted twelve
218 years (19491960) comes to an end!
Fig. 4 Left N.A. Bernstein and his son Alexander on the boat. Moscow, Ostankino, 1948
(courtesy of D.A. Ginzburg). Right Bernsteins passport photo (around 1950) (courtesy of
T.I. Pavlova)
Fig. 5 Pravda”—the main ofcial newspaper of the Communist Party in Soviet times. The article
Against the vulgarization of physical education theory(August 21, 1950) condemns the anti-
Pavlovian position of Bernstein. It was published right after the notorious PavlovianJoint
session of the Academy of Science of the USSR and the Academy of Medical Science (28 June4
July 1950)
320 V.L. Talis
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219 5 Moscow Motor Control School in the Late Sixties
220 Young scientists unsatised with the ofcial pseudo-Pavlovian physiology in Soviet
221 Russia visited Bernstein at home and incorporated his ideas into their theoretical
222 outlooks [20]. During World War II, many of them served as physicians in the army
223 (R. Person, V. Gurnkel, B. Khodorov). The majority of these scientists had
224 obtained their MD during or after WWII, and could not nd work till Stalins death
225 in 1953. Many of them were not skilled in foreign languages (Nikolai
226 Alexandrovich spoke German, French, English, and knew Italian, Polish and Latin).
227 Besides, foreign scientic literature was not easily accessible (Fig. 6).
228 Raisa Person, a pioneer in electromyography, recalled:
229 Bernstein distanced himself from reex theory, and did not consider reex to be the
230 basis of movement. He considered it to be just an element of movement having no principal
231 signicance in the organization of movement. He argued not so much with Pavlov, as with
232 the conclusions made from Pavlovs experiments. The attempt to build the behavior of a
233 living being on the basis of conditional reexeswas absolutely unacceptable to him. At
234 that time, young physiologists started reading scientic literature published abroad, an
235 advantage we had not had before. All we had was an incomplete translation of Sherrington
236 into Russian, which we studied. In addition, very few people knew foreign languages.
237 He was polite in an old-fashioned way. He used to address a person My most honorable
238 friend.For instance, he wrote to me: My most honorable friend, Raisa Samuilovna,
239 I inform you that my microreport will take place this Wednesday at the Institute of
240 Neurosurgery (from an interview with Person, 2010).
241 These young physiologists, including Victor Gurnkel, Mark Shik, Yakov Kotz,
242 Raisa Person, Victor Lebedinsky, Vladimir Naidin, Iosif Feigenberg (who later
243 became well-known) came to see Nikolai Alexandrovich to present their experi-
244 mental results. Bernstein used to say: If you have something to say, you can tell it
245 in simple words(from the interview with L.G. Okhnianskaya, 2010). His reha-
246 bilitation in science after 1953 went slowly. In 1957 Lyapunovs cybernetics
247 seminars held at the Mechanics Department of the Moscow State University played
248 an important role in this process [21]. At this seminar, Bernstein presented the
249 lecture: On the coordination of movement in humans and animals.In 1960,
250 Norbert Wiener (18941964) came to Moscow, where he was introduced to Nikolai
251 Alexandrovich who interpreted Wieners public lecture at the Moscow State
252 University. From the letter of N.A. Bernstein (12/XII, 1960), published in [10]:
253 Here is some current information. Norbert Wiener came to Moscow. I was introduced to
254 him during his lecture at the University. Together with A.R. Luria I interpreted his lecture
255 and at the end we were exhausted, since the talk was very specialized and concerned strictly
256 mathematical themes (phase spaces, theory of groups, rings and something else). We were
257 sweating. Yet, he is a very nice and simple old man. I gave him a reprint of my article
258 published in 1935 from the Archive of Biological Sciences[10].
259 Norbert Wiener could now read the works of Nikolai Bernstein, who had already
260 discovered many of his own ideas [10].
261 Approximately at the same time, Bernsteins ideas on motor control inuenced
262 Gelfand and Tsetlins ideas on the non-individual control of multiple elementsa
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263 predecessor of the current uncontrolled manifoldhypothesis developed by
264 M. Latash and colleagues [12]. The seminar of the mathematician Israel Gelfand
265 (19132009) and the physicist Mikhail Tsetlin (19241966) became the place
266 where biological mathematics was grown from inside out, drawing on the very
267 essence of issues proposed by the life sciences[22].
268 The last years of Bernsteins life were a testament to his pupils. He wrote many
269 introductions to the books of young authors, and references to their papers [23]. In a
Fig. 6 Above Bernstein in Moscow. Below The letter of Bernstein to Person (courtesy of Person)
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270 paper published in 1962, Bernstein wrote: It is possible to program an action with
271 respect to a certain goal only based on an image or a model of a situation to which
272 this action must lead and with respect to which the action is undertaken. However,
273 since future events can be assessed or predicted only using probabilistic prognosis
274 (a neat term by Feigenberg), it is clear that analysis of underlying physiological
275 processes must be based on the theory of probabilities including its most recent
276 developments[22].
277 Victor Gurnkel, who started his career under Bernsteinsinuence at the
278 Moscow Institute of Prosthetic Appliances, has all his life till now elaborated the
279 topic of tonus. What is the role of tonogenic structurethe background of all
280 movement acts, the bereitnessfor the movement? Among Gurnkels most cited
281 papers is an article about anticipatory postural adjustments (APA)changes in leg
282 muscle activity that anticipate arm elevation while standing [24].
283 In the 1935 paper The Problem of Interrelation Between Coordination and
284 Localization[15], Bernstein wrote about movement anticipation: At the moment
285 when movement begins there is already present in the central nervous system a
286 whole collection of engrams that are necessary for the movement to be carried out
287 to its conclusion.In part due to Bernsteins early work on motor preparation, tonus
288 is now viewed as an anticipatory physiological adaptation and organization of the
289 periphery.
290 Bernsteins ideas about tonus inspired many experimental studies of the pre-
291 tuning of movement [2527]. The task of voluntary bimanual unloading is a good
292 example of such a localsynergy [25,26]. When a subject removes a weight from
293 his forearm using the contralateral arm, the unloaded forearm maintains an almost
294 stable position in space (barmen effect) due to the reduction of ipsilateral biceps
295 activity prior to the unloading. Anticipatory postural adjustments consist here of
296 changes in the activity of a forearm exor muscle prior to active unloading of the
297 limb and act to stabilize the forearm angular position. To evaluate the role of motor
298 cortex and the pyramidal system in the anticipatory postural adjustment to forearm
299 unloading, we investigated the motor potentials (MEPs) evoked by transcranial
300 magnetic stimulation (TMS) in a forearm exor at the time of bimanual unloading
301 [25]. If the unloading is triggered via electromagnet by lifting an equal weight by
302 the other arm, the anticipatory postural adjustment is learned through the repetition
303 of unloading (three series of 20 trials). During learning the amount of EMG
304 depression increased and this depression became better synchronized with the time
305 of unloading. Even though the unloading proles were similar at the beginning and
306 at the end of learning sessions, practice resulted at the nal stage of learning in less
307 elbow exion after the unloading due to anticipatory biceps activity depression [27]
308 (Fig. 7).
309 What references did Bernstein make to movement anticipation in his experi-
310 mental material and interpretations? In 1939 he said: Our analysis of virtuoso
311 pianistsmovements showed that at fast tempos muscles-exors of forearm and
312 hand take over the muscles-extensors early in the midstream of the extension,
313 almost in the middle of it, and stop functioning in the middle of its subordinate
314 exion movement[28]. The relation between tuning and motor commands is
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315 illustrated by the example, given by Bernstein, of a violinist compressing a string
316 with his nger. That compression does not create sound by itself but species which
317 sound will be elicited by the next stroke of the bow [29]. (The contribution to this
318 volume by Ito [30] and Nadin [31] make reference to some of Bernsteins ideas.)
319 Nikolai Alexandrovich Bernstein died on 16 January 1966. No ofcials came to
320 his funeral. After his death his disciples published a book with their collective work
321 [24], dedicated to their teacher. Their interdisciplinary seminars produced a gen-
322 eration of outstanding researchers. Among the achievements of this generation are
323 the discovery of the spinal stepping automatism in the cat [25], equilibrium point
324 (EP) hypothesis[26], the hindlimb wiping reex of the frog as an example of a
325 targeted trajectory organized at the spinal level [27], and the probabilistic prognosis
326 in human activity [22]. The author of the EP hypothesis, Anatol Feldman, whose
327 scientic career began in Gelfands seminar, said (from the interview in 2011):
328 In my opinion, the most important contribution of Bernsteins legacy is the problem of the
329 redundant degrees of freedom of the motor apparatus. When we make a movement, a lot of
330 joints are involved. The question is: how does the system cope with it? The goal is
331 sometimes described very simply: to reach a certain point in a space having only 3 coor-
332 dinates. If we add the orientation of the object that we want to catch, there are 6 coordi-
333 nates; however, the degrees of freedom of the involved joints are much largerBernstein
334 formulated signicant questions in motor control science. The idea of motor equivalence
335 (like, for instance, the variability of the movement of the hammer relative to the consistency
336 of the nal point) is very important for me. It is directly related to the problem of redundant
337 degrees of freedomAlso, Bernstein made conclusions on and summarized for us what
338 had been done before. I must point out that the mathematician Israel Moiseevich Gelfand
339 used to say that Bernstein had a mathematical mind, and that Bernsteins style of thinking
Fig. 7 Active (a) and passive (b) unloading. Left, schemes of the experiment. Right, time course
of the EMG of m. biceps, elbow angle, load force, and handle grip force. In the time scale, zero
corresponds to the touching of the handle. Note that in active unloading the EMG change precedes
the onset of movement (t = 0), whereas in passive unloading the EMG decreases after t = 0 [25]
324 V.L. Talis
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340 was similar to his. We are all pupils of Bernstein. His ideas were to some extent reected in
341 the ideas that Gelfand and Tsetlin generated, for instance, the idea of non-individualized
342 control of many motor elements. I can see how these ideas are related to the modern
343 understanding of non-individualizedcontrol of many muscles and jointsThe Moscow
344 School of Movement Physiology created by Gelfand carried a charge received from
345 Bernstein. Bernsteins approach inuenced their style of thinking that prompted us not to
346 solve local questions, but to try and understand how the brain controls movements. Lets
347 take, for instance, the so-called cat locomotion. The research was initiated (perhaps
348 subconsciously) by the idea that a big number of elements can be controlled relatively
349 simply. Eventually, such a locomotor area was found by Mark Shik, Gregory Orlovsky, and
350 Fedor Severin. This locomotor area could be tonically stimulated to induce locomotion of
351 the decerebrated cat. By enhancing stimulation, we can change the speed of movement and
352 make the cat change walking to galloping.
353 Mark Shik, discoverer of locomotor center in cats, comments on the ideas of
354 Bernstein (from the interview with Shik, 2010):
355 It is difcult to imagine how unusual his ideas were. The thing is that the anatomists had
356 already known, for about 100 years or so before Bernstein, that CNS consisted of different
357 parts: spinal cord, brain stem, pons, mesencephalonBut only Bernstein came to think
358 whether suddenly or over time, I dont know that, if the nervous system functioned on
359 different levels, each of which had its own methods of control, movement control could also
360 be regarded as a multilevel system. As far as I know, nobody cared to exploit these facts
361 that the anatomists had long known in order to understand movement physiology. It was a
362 real revolution, a revelation. He brought the whole movement physiology to a new level.
363 There were studies in movement physiology before Bernstein. Physiologists have been
364 interested in movement for a long time, starting from the Middle Ages. But the idea that
365 movement has a multilevel nature and every level of CNS performs its own part and
366 controls movements in its own way was novel. It greatly impressed me. Neuro-pathologists
367 as well as neuro-anatomists have known for a long time that local lesions in different
368 locations of the brain have specic symptoms and signs. Yet, I have never heard about any
369 neurologists who would have developed a global model based on these facts. Nikolai
370 Bernstein created a whole system. He initiated, so to speak, a structured approach to
371 studying movement physiology.
372 Acknowledgments The preparation of this article was supported in part by the grant RFBR
373 #14-04-00950.
374 References
375 1. Agarwail, G.C., Gottlieb, G.L.: Control theory and cybernetic aspects of motor systems. In:
376 Whiting, H.T.A. (ed.) Human Motor Actions: Bernstein Reassessed. North-Holland,
377 Amsterdam (1984)
378 2. Latash, L.P.: Automation of movements: challenges to the notions of the orienting reaction
379 and memory. In: Latash, M.L. (ed.) Progress in Motor Control, vol. 1: Bernsteins Traditions
380 in Movement Studies, pp. 5188. Human Kinetics, Champaign (1998)
381 3. Sirotkina I.E.: Outstanding Physiologist. Classic of psychology? (On 100 years of birthday of
382 NA Bernstein). J. Psych. 5,116127 (1996) Bernstein S.A.: Early years, v.1,2. Family Archive
383 of A.S. Bernstein (in Russian) (1945)
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384 4. Feigenberg, I.M.: Nikolai Bernsteinfrom reex to the model of the future. Moscow, Smisl
385 (2004), translated into English in Feigenberg I.M. LIT Berlin, in Press (in Russian) (2014)
386 5. Kruglyanskaja, N.A. (ed.): Popovs, The Cloth-Makers: Notes About Moscow Life and Not
387 Only. Russki Put, Moscow (2010). (in Russian)
388 6. Jansons, H.: Bernstein: the microscopy of movement. In: Cappozzo, A., Marchetti, M., Tosi,
389 V. (eds.) Biolocomotion: A Century of Research Using Moving Pictures, pp. 137174.
390 Promograph, Roma (1992)
391 7. Popova, T.S., Mogilanskaya, Z.V. (with participation of Bernstein N.A., edited by Bernstein
392 N.A.): Techincs of Motion Study, Practical Handbook on Cyclogrammetry. Moscow-
393 Leningrad (1934). (in Russian)
394 8. Bernstein, S.A.: Selected Works on Structural Mechanics, p. 451. Gosstroiisdat, Moscow
395 (1961). (in Russian) Chkhaidze L.V., Chumakoff S.V.: The Formula of Stride. Moscow
396 (1972). (in Russian)
397 9. Bernstein, N.A.: Die Kimozyclographische Methode der Bewegungsuntersuchungen. In:
398 Abderhalden E. (ed.) Handbuch der biologischen Arbeitsmethoden, vol. 5. pp. 629680
399 (1928). (in German)
400 10. Latash, M.L.: Synergy. Oxford Press, New York (2008)
401 11. Gurnkel, V.S., Cordo, P.J.: The scientic Legacy of Nikolai Bernstein, In: Latash, M.L. (Ed.),
402 Progress in Motor Control, Vol. 1: Bernsteins Traditions in Movement Studies, pp. 119.
403 Human Kinetics, Champaign (1998)
404 12. Bernstein, N.A.: Contemporary studies in the physiology of the neural process. Feigenberg, I.M.,
405 Sirotkina, I.E. (eds.) Moscow Smisl, 328 p. (in Russian) (2003). (See review of this book by
406 Latash M.L. A New Book by Nikolai Bernstein: Contemporary Studies in the Physiology of the
407 Neural Process, Motor Control, 10, 16, 2006)
408 13. Bernstein, N.A.: The problem of the interrelation of co-ordination and localization. Arch. Biol.
409 Sci. 38,134 (in Russian) (1935), translated into English in Bernstein, 1967 (The
410 Coordination and Regulation of Movements. Pergamon Press, 196 p), in German in 1975
411 (Bewegungsphysiologie von N.A. Bernstein. Hrsg. Von L. Pickenhein und G. Schnaber,
412 Leipzig, Barth, Bd.9, 260 s.)
413 14. Wiesendanger, M.: Bernsteins principle of equal simplicity and related concepts. In: Latash,
414 M.L. (Ed.) Progress in Motor Control, Vol. 1: Bernsteins Traditions in Movement Studies,
415 pp. 119. Human Kinetics, Champaign (1998)
416 15. Turvey, M.T.: Coordination. Am. Psychol. 45, 938953 (1990)
417 16. Latash, M.L., Turvey, M.T. (eds.): Dexterity and its Development (with On Dexterity and its
418 developmentby N.A, Bernstein). Erlbaum, Mahwah (1996)
419 17. Stuart, D.G.: Integration of posture and movement: contribution of Sherrington, Hess and
420 Bernstein. Human Mov Sci 24, 621643 (2005)
421 18. Talis, V.L., Feigenberg, I.M.: Nikolai Alexandrovich Bernstein and the Moscow Motor
422 Control School in the Late Sixties. Soc Neurosci Abstr. 40 (2010)
423 19. Smoljaninov, V.V.: From the biomechanics to the physiology of action (the scientic school
424 of NA Bernstein). In: Proceedings of the Conference Technologies of Informatisation in
425 Professional Activity, Izhevsk, 1014 Nov 2008. (in Russian)
426 20. Bernstein, N.A.: New lines of development in contemporary physiology. J. Russ. East Eur.
427 Psychol. 44(2), 6067 (2006)
428 21. Bernstein, N.A.: On the perspective of mathematics in biocybernetics. The foreword to the
429 book of V. Shernish, A. Napalkov The Mathematical Apparatus of Biological Cybernetics.
430 Moscow Medicine, p. 330 (1964). (In Russian)
431 22. Belenkii, V.Y., Gurnkel, V.S., Paltsev, E.I.: On the control elements of voluntary
432 movements. Biozika 12(1), 135141 (1967). (in Russian)
433 23. Kazennikov, O., Solopova, I., Talis, V., Grishin, A., Ioffe, M.: TMS-responses during
434 anticipatory postural adjustment in bimanual unloading in humans. Neurosci. Lett. 383,
435 246250 (2005)
436 24. Paulignan, Y., Dufosse, M., Hugon, M., Massion, J.: Acquisition of co-ordination between
437 posture and movement in a bimanual task. Exp. Brain Res. 77, 337348 (1989)
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438 25. Kazennikov, O., Solopova, I., Talis, V., Ioffe, M.: Anticipatory postural adjustment: the role of
439 motor cortex in the natural and learned bimanual unloading. Exp. Brain Res. 186, 215223
440 (2008)
441 26. Bernstein, N.A: Modern data on the structure of neuro-motor process. In: For the Musical
442 Pedagogue, pp. 207231. Moscow, Muzgiz (1939). (in Russian)
443 27. Baader, A.P., Kazennikov, O., Wiesendanger, M.: Coordination of bowing and ngering in
444 violin playing. Cogn. Brain. Res. 23(23), 436443 (2005)
445 28. Ito, J.P.: Repetition without repetition: how bernstein illumines motor skill in muscle
446 performance. In: Nadin, M. (ed.) Anticipation: Learning from The Past. Springer, Cham,
447 Switzerland (2015)
448 29. Nadin, M.: Variability by another name: repetition without repetition.In: Nadin, M. (ed.)
449 Anticipation: Learning from The Past. Springer, Cham, Switzerland (2015)
450 30. Gelfand, I.M., Gurnkel, V.S., Fomin, S.V., Tsetlin, M.L.: Models of the Structural-
451 Functional Organization of Certain Biological Systems. Academy of Science of the USSR,
452 Moscow (in Russian) (English translation by C.R. Beard and edited by J.S. Barlow, Boston:
453 MIT Press) (1971)
454 31. Shik, M.L., Orlovsky, G.N.: Neurophysiology of locomotor automatism. Physiol. Rev. 56(3),
455 465501 (1976)
456 32. Asatryan, D.G., Feldman, A.G.: Functional tuning of the nervous system with control of
457 movement or maintenance of a steady posture: i. mechanographic analysis of the work of the
458 limb on execution of a postural task. Biophysics 10, 925935 (1965)
459 33. Fukson, O.I., Berkinblit, M.B., Feldman, A.G.: The spinal frog takes into account the scheme
460 of its body during the wiping reex, Science 209(4462), 12611263 (1980)
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In this paper, we analyze Nikolai Bernstein's notion of the activity of living organisms, which he introduced at the end of his career. Bernstein did not leave a systematic description of his last thoughts, but many remarks in his writing, especially in his last book [Bernstein, 1966], show that he thought deeply about the biological significance of the ideas that he developed while studying motor control. He accepted that negentropy (the tendency towards probabilistic determinacy, orderliness, free energy expenditure) is a hallmark of all life processes but wrote extensively about the insufficiency of this property and searched for a more complete definition of living organisms. This definition would include the goal-directedness of development, anticipation, persistence, tendency toward autonomy, initiative, and more. Thus, this paper is an attempt to present the definition of the activity of living organisms from Bernstein's later work to English-speaking readers.
Full-text available
Given the growing interest in the scaffolding process, it is worthwhile to address competing accounts about the origin of this term. The concept was empirically introduced by Wood, Bruner, and Ross in 1976 and has often been associated with the “zone of proximal development” in the writing of L.S. Vygotsky. We trace the origins of it in instances of the term being used by Nikolai Bernstein and Alexander Luria, as well as in Vygotsky’s notebooks. Our historical search helps to highlight the theoretical connection between this metaphor and the teaching/learning versus development opposition, and its relation to motor control development.
A considerable progress in modeling human actions and social phenomena achieved at the beginning of twenty-first century demonstrates that the notions and formalism developed in modern physics are really efficient in describing systems and phenomena where human role is crucial. It turns our that a wide variety of fundamental notions such as dynamical systems, attractors, deterministic chaos, Markov stochastic processes, cooperative behavior, self-organization, phase transitions play a crucial role in understanding and modeling many mental processes and social phenomena. As a result, a number of novel interdisciplinary branches of science like sociophysics, econophysics, brain dynamics have been developed.
Activity theory (AT) has gained a widespread acceptance in human–computer interaction (HCI). However, embodiment has not been significantly addressed by this approach. In accounting for embodied interaction, this critical and conceptual review presents the theoretical approach of the Russian physiologist Nikolai Bernstein. Bernstein's approach to activity is very closely connected to existing approaches of AT used in HCI. Bernstein provides a sustained set of concepts for addressing activity as contextualized and purposeful achievement. Further, ecological psychologists have extensively developed Bernstein's approach (complementary to J.J. Gibson's), in terms of dynamical systems theory. Using a concrete example of an adaptive milk bottle for infant use and a hypothetical example of the video game Rockband, the concepts of Bernstein's approach and its applicability to HCI are presented. Addressing Bernstein's research allows for growing the repertoire of AT in HCI, as well as, providing a crucial link between ecological psychology, AT and HCI.
Full-text available
This volume presents the work of leading scientists from Russia, Georgia, Estonia, Lithuania, Israel, and the USA, revealing major insights long unknown to the scientific community. Without any doubt their work will provide a springboard for further research in anticipation. Until recently, Robert Rosen (Anticipatory Systems) and Mihai Nadin (MIND – Anticipation and Chaos) were deemed forerunners in this still new knowledge domain. The distinguished neurobiologist, Steven Rose, pointed to the fact that Soviet neuropsychological theories have not on the whole been well received by Western science. These earlier insights as presented in this volume make an important contribution to the foundation of the science of anticipation. It is shown that the daring hypotheses and rich experimental evidence produced by Bernstein, Beritashvili, Ukhtomsky, Anokhin, and Uznadze, among others—extend foundational work to aspects of neuroscience, physiology, motorics, education.
Full-text available
The fundamental distinction between reaction and anticipation corresponds to their respective condition. Reaction is by its nature the expression of a particular form of causality defined within Newtonian physics. Anticipation corresponds to a specific form of causality associated with the past and with possible futures. Bernstein acknowledged that motoric activity is driven by the future, i.e., by the goal pursued. The formula “repetition without repetition” captures the role that variability, as an expression of anticipation, plays in the motoric process. This study focuses on an attempt to capture the holistic expression of anticipation in quantitative descriptions, and draws a parallel between Bernstein’s experimental work and that carried out in the AnticipationScope. © 2015, Springer International Publishing Switzerland, All rights Reserved.
This chapter discusses the problem of the interrelation of co-ordination and localization. The relationship between movements and the innervational impulses that evoke them is extremely complex and is, moreover, by no means univocal. The degree of tension of a muscle is a function, in the first place, of its innervational (tetanic and tonic) condition E, and, in the second place, of its length at a given instant and of the velocity with which this length changes over time. In an intact organism the length of a muscle is in its turn a function of the angle of articulation α. The chapter discusses integrity and structural complexity of live movements. Co-ordination is an activity which guarantees that a movement shall have the homogeneity, integration and structural unity. This activity is principally based not on particular processes in individual neurons, but on the determinate organization of their common activity. This organization must necessarily be reflected in the anatomical plan in the form of localization.
This book discusses a general problem in biology: the lack of an adequate language for formulating biologically specific problems. This book describes recent progress in the control and coordination of human movement. It begins with a brief history of movement studies and reviews the current central controversies in the area of control of movements with an emphasis on the equilibrium-point hypothesis. An operational definition of synergy is introduced and a method of analysis of synergies is described based on the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis. This method is further used to characterize synergies in a variety of tasks including such common motor tasks as standing, pointing, reaching, standing-up, and manipulation of hand-held objects. Applications of this method to movements by persons with neurological disorders, persons with atypical development, and healthy elderly persons are illustrated, as well as changes in motor synergies with practice. Possible neurophysiological mechanisms of synergies are also discussed, focusing on such conspicuous structures as the spinal cord, the cerebellum, the basal ganglia, and the cortex of the large hemispheres. A variety of models are discussed based on different computational and neurophysiological principles. Possible applications of the introduced definition of synergies to other areas such as perception and language are discussed.
1. (1) In the latent period of voluntary movement of the arm in the standing subject it is possible to observe anticipatory activation of a number of muscles of the lower limbs and trunk. The composition of the muscles and sequence of their inclusion and exclusion are quite stable and characteristic of definite movements. 2. (2) The anticipatory activity of the muscles of the trunk and the lower limbs is characterized by a shorter latent period than that of their voluntary activation. 3. (3) Anticipatory activation or exclusion of the muscles occurs at different times. The initial changes occur in the musculature of the lower limbs. 4. (4) The anticipatory activation of the muscles as preparation for voluntary movement is connected with the need to maintain balance with the minimum expenditure of energy. 5. (5) With change in the conditions in which the voluntary raising of the arm (an obstacle to movement) is performed, preparation for the movement changes in such a way as to ensure the equilibrium of the body in the new situation.
This chapter presents a basic overview of Bernsteinian motor control theory, with particular reference to the performance of classical music. Key points include contrasts with Pavlovian approaches, the interdependence of action and perception, the centrality of goals and intentions, the role of repetition, and the nature of dexterity. Specific applications to motor training for musicians are sketched. © 2015, Springer International Publishing Switzerland, All rights Reserved.