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Navigation Nobel: Soviet pioneer

Nature volume 515, page 37 (06 November 2014) | Download Citation

Physiologist Ivan Beritashvili was notably absent from the acknowledged forerunners in the scientific background document for this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (see Nature 514, 153; 2014). In the 1930s, he studied spatial navigation in dogs at the University of Tbilisi in Georgia.

John O'Keefe, one of the Nobel winners, had many of Beritashvili's works translated into English. References to Beritashvili have appeared in several books and reviews (see, for instance, P. F. Smith and Y. Zheng Front. Integr. Neurosci. (2013); I. Bures and O. Buresova in Machinery of the Mind (eds E. R. John et al.) Springer, 1990), and evidence of his pioneering research was presented by neurophysiologist Merab Tsagareli at a September 2014 conference on early Soviet and Russian contributions to the 'science of anticipation' (see

In my view, Beritashvili, as the first to study spatial navigation in higher vertebrates, deserves a mention in the Nobel background document. His contributions warrant reappraisal, as do those of many other scientists who worked in the former Soviet Union and who were often vilified and isolated from the international scientific community.

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  1. Institute for Research in Anticipatory Systems, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, Texas, USA.

    • Mihai Nadin


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