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DATE: 1957

LENGTH: 45 min

CATEGORY: Clinical & Surgical, Research & Documentation, Sound, Black & White

DIRECTOR: Petr Anokhin and Tatiana Alekseeva

PRODUCER/PUBLISHER: USSR Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow


In 1957, the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences in Moscow released an unusual motion picture, Neural and Humoral Factors in the Regulation of Bodily Functions (Research on Conjoined Twins). Never widely circulated, today the film is extremely rare: until this internet release, the only accessible copy could be found at the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The film documents research conducted on two pairs of conjoined twins (Ira and Galia, and Masha and Dasha), each of whom had a shared circulatory system, but completely separate nervous systems. The research was supervised, over two decades: the first pair of twins was studied in 1937–38, the second in 1950–57. Intended for a narrow specialist audience, the film offers a rare glimpse into the history of Soviet physiology and “scientific cinema,” a peculiar cinematographic genre that had a long and distinguished history in Soviet Russia. While the conjoined twins presented unique opportunities for research into a variety of interesting questions—physiological and also psychological, genetic, immunological, and embryological—the movie only addresses the issue of the relative roles of neural and humoral (circulatory and lymphatic) factors in the functioning of the human organism, according to the theories espoused by Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936), Russia’s first Nobel Prize winner and the doyen of Soviet physiology. Yet surprisingly, Pavlov is never mentioned in the film’s running commentary, and the film gives little information on either Ira and Galia or Masha and Dasha. Only Masha and Dasha lived to adulthood. Even though they were made to serve as child human research subjects without the consent of parents or guardians, in some ways the film marks the happiest part of their lives—it shows their seventh birthday party—when they were well attended to and received relatively good treatment….Read The Essay

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