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Ban’s Conditioning and Psychiatry

Thomas A. Ban: Conditioning and Psychiatry. Aldine, Chicago, 1964.( 244 pages).

INFORMATION ON CONTENTS: The monograph is divided into five parts. The first,  “From Overt Behavior to Neurophysiology”, begins with an account of the development that lead from Bidder and Schmidt’s observation in the mid-19th century that teasing a dog with food led to gastric secretion, to Pavlov and his associates’ demonstration of the same in the early years of the 20th century by sham-feeding of an esophagotomized dog. It continues by a description of the 31 experiments in Pavlov’s laboratories in which the behavioral properties of this “psychic secretion”, that was to be referred to a “conditional reflex”, were defined; and then, Pavlov’s conceptualization of his findings in his “brain model” are discussed. It concludes with information about the role of various cerebral structures in conditional reflex formation and of the electroencephalographic correlates of conditioning. In the second part, “Pavlovian Psychiatry”, Pavlov’s conceptualization of his findings is extended from his “brain model” to psychiatric symptoms (general psychopathology) and diagnoses (clinical psychopathology) with implications for treatment. Special considerations are given to “sleep therapy”. In the third, “From Animal Experiments to Human Test Procedures” the emphasis shifts from Pavlov’s original experiments in animals and deductions, to the study of conditional reflex variables in normal subjects and  patients with mental pathology. The different conditioning techniques used in human, e.g. galvanic skin resistance, plethysmography, defensive finger withdrawal are described, and procedure for studying anomalies (qualitative and quantitative) in conditional reflex variables (properties) are presented. In part four, findings in diagnostic and therapeutic (including pharmacological) research with the employment of conditioning are reviewed. The monograph ends with a “critical evaluation” in part five, in which Pavlovian conditioning is examined in the light of learning theory and the information on “classical, conditioning“ is complemented with information on “instrumental” or “operant” conditioning”. By the time of the 1960s when this monograph was written, Pavlov’s deductions became of historical interest only, while both, classical and instrumental conditioning was increasingly used in behavioral pharmacological research and in the study of mental pathology in psychiatric patients with different diagnoses, and of the effect of treatment with psychotropic drugs.

AUTHOR’S STATEMENT: This monograph is based on my “thesis” to fulfill requirements for obtaining a diploma in psychiatry at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) in 1960. It was first published in 1964 in Chicago by Aldine Publishing Company with a Foreword by W. Horsley Gantt, at the time one of the last living direct disciples of Pavlov. It was reprinted two years later, in 1966 for distribution in the UK by George Allen & Unwin Limited in London. In 2008, Transaction Publishers rendered it available again with the changed title, Conditioning Behavior and Psychiatry.

Thomas A. Ban

January 30, 2014