16 July 1902|
Kazan, Russian Empire
|Died||14 August 1977
Moscow, Soviet Union
|Alma mater||Kazan State University|
|Mind and brain portal|
Alexander Romanovich Luria (Russian: Алекса́ндр Рома́нович Лу́рия; 16 July 1902 – 14 August 1977) was a famous Soviet neuropsychologist and developmental psychologist. He was one of the founders of Cultural-Historical Psychology, and a leader of the Vygotsky Circle. Apart from his work with Vygotsky, he is widely known for his later work with two extraordinary psychological case studies, his study of a man with a highly advanced memory, published as "The Mind of a Mnemonist", and the study of a man with traumatic brain injury, published as "The Man with a Shattered World".
Luria was born in Kazan, a regional center east of Moscow, to Jewish parents. He studied at Kazan State University (graduated in 1921), Kharkiv Medical Institute and 1st Moscow Medical Institute (graduated in 1937). He was appointed Professor (1944), Doctor of Pedagogical (1937) and Medical Sciences (1943). Throughout his career Luria worked in a wide range of scientific fields at such institutions as the Academy of Communist Education (1920-1930s), Experimental Defectological Institute (1920-1930s, 1950-1960s, both in Moscow), Ukrainian Psychoneurological Academy (Kharkiv, early 1930s), All-Union Institute of Experimental Medicine, Burdenko Institute of Neurosurgery (late 1930s), and other institutions. In the late 1930s, Luria went to medical school. Following the war, Luria continued his work in Moscow's Institute of Psychology. For a period of time, he was removed from the Institute of Psychology, mainly as a result of a flare-up of anti-Semitism and shifted to research on intellectually disabled children at the Defectological Institute in the 1950s. Additionally, from 1945 on Luria worked at the Moscow State University and was instrumental in the foundation of the Faculty of Psychology at the Moscow State University, where he later headed the Departments of Patho- and Neuropsychology.
Early life and childhood
Luria was born on 16 July 1902 in the city of Kazan into a medical family. According to Luria's biographer Evgenia Homskaya, his father, Roman Albertovich Luria "worked as a professor at the University of Kazan; and after the Russian Revolution, he became a founder and chief of the Kazan institute of Advanced Medical Education." Two monographs of his father's writings were published in Russian under the titles, Stomach and Gullet Illnesses (1935) and Inside Look at Illness and Gastrogenic Diseases (1935). His mother, Evgenia Viktorovna Haskin (maiden name), became a practicing dentist after finishing college in Poland. Luria was one of two children and his younger sister Lydia became a practicing psychiatrist.
Early education and move to Moscow
Luria completed his adolescent education ahead of schedule and was also published in Bekterev's scientific journal before reaching the age of twenty. As stated by Homskaya, "At the end of 1921, Luria moved to Moscow, settling ... on the Arbat street near Smolenskaya. His parents also lived in the Arbat area, which allowed Luria to maintain close relationships with them." Simultaneously, Luria "was offered a position at the Moscow Institute of Psychology, run at that time by Professor K.N. Kornilov." Luria wrote three books during the 1920s after moving to Moscow titled, The Nature of Human Conflicts, Speech and Intellect in Child Development, and Speech and Intellect of Urban, Rural and Homeless Children. Only this second title was published in the 1920s, in 1928, while the other two were published in the 1930s. Luria met a large number of scholars in Moscow during the 1920s, which included Leontiev, Zaporozhets, Vygotsky, Slavina, Levina, Bozhovich, and Morozova, some of whom would remain lifelong colleagues. During the writing of these three books during the 1920s, Homskaya reports that "Luria demonstrated that syntagmatic verbal connections appear earlier in ontogenetic development than paradigmatic connections. This was an important discovery for neurolinguistics."
While a student in Kazan, he established the Kazan Psychoanalytic Association and exchanged letters with Sigmund Freud.
In 1923, his work with reaction times related to thought processes earned him a position at the Institute of Psychology in Moscow. There, he developed the "combined motor method," which helped diagnose individuals' thought processes, creating the first ever lie-detector device. This research was published in the US in 1932 (published in Russian for the first time only in 2002).
In 1924, Luria met Lev Vygotsky, who would influence him greatly. Along with Alexei Nikolaevich Leont'ev, these three psychologists launched a project of developing a psychology of a radically new kind. This approach fused "cultural", "historical", and "instrumental" psychology and is most commonly referred to presently as cultural-historical psychology. It emphasizes the mediatory role of culture, particularly language, in the development of higher mental functions in ontogeny and phylogeny.
Luria's work continued in the 1930s with his psychological expeditions to Central Asia. Under the supervision of Vygotsky, Luria investigated various psychological changes (including perception, problem solving, and memory) that take place as a result of cultural development of undereducated minorities. In this regard he has been credited with a major contribution to the study of orality. Later, he studied identical and fraternal twins in large residential schools to determine the interplay of various factors of cultural and genetic human development. In his early neuropsychological work in the end of 1930s as well as throughout his postwar academic life he focused on the study of aphasia, focusing on the relation between language, thought, and cortical functions, particularly on the development of compensatory functions for aphasia.
During World War II Luria led a research team at an army hospital looking for ways to compensate psychological dysfunctions in patients with brain lesions. This work resulted in major advances in the field of Clinical neuropsychology. His two main case studies, both published a few years before his death, described S.V. Shereshevskii, a Russian journalist with a seemingly unlimited memory (1968), in part due to his fivefold synesthesia. This case was presented in a book The Mind of a Mnemonist. Luria's other most well-known book is The Man with a Shattered World, a penetrating account of Zasetsky, a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury (1972). These case studies illustrate Luria's main methods of combining classical and remediational approaches.
Luria-Nebraska Neuropsychological Test
The Luria-Nebraska is a standardized test based on the theories of Luria regarding neuropsychological functioning.
- Luria, A. R. (1932). The Nature of Human Conflicts - or Emotion, Conflict, and Will: An Objective Study of Disorganisation and Control of Human Behaviour. New York: Liveright Publishers.
- Luria, A. R. (1962) Higher Cortical Functions in Man. Moscow University Press. Library of Congress Number: 65-11340
- Luria, A. R. (1963). Restoration of Function After Brain Injury. Pergamon Press.
- Luria, A. R. (1966). Human Brain and Psychological Processes. Harper & Row.
- Luria, A. R. (1970). Traumatic Aphasia: Its Syndromes, Psychology, and Treatment. Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 90-279-0717-X. Summary at BrainInfo
- Luria, A. R. (1973). The Working Brain. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-09208-X.
- Luria, A. R. (1976). The Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-13731-0.
- Luria, A. R.; (1987). The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book About A Vast Memory. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-57622-5.
- Luria, A. R.; Solotaroff, Lynn (1987). The Man with a Shattered World: The History of a Brain Wound. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-54625-3.
- Luria, A.R. (2005). Autobiography of Alexander Luria: A Dialogue with the Making of Mind. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. ISBN 0-8058-5499-1.
- Chris Doyle's auteur film Away with Words is largely inspired by Luria's The Mind of a Mnemonist.
- Jacqueline Goss's 28-minute feature How to Fix the World (2004) is a digitally animated video that "draws from Luria's study of how the introduction of literacy affected the thought-patterns of Central Asian peasants." - description taken from the cover of the DVD Wendy and Lucy (2008), OSC-004, which includes it. Educational resource.
- Linguistic Disorders and Pathologies: An International Handbook, Walter de Gruyter, 1993, p. 162.
- Evgenia Homskaya (2001). Alexander Romanovich Luria: A Scientific Biography, Plenum Publishers, New York, NY, p.9.
- Homskaya, p. 9.
- Homskaya, p. 9-10.
- Homskaya, p. 15.
- Homskaya, p. 15.
- Homskaya, p. 22.
- Homskaya, p. 19.
- Ong, Walter J. (2002). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (Second ed.). London and New York: Routledge. pp. 49–54. ISBN 0415281296.
- The Conscious Brain by Steven Rose, Vintage Books, NY, 1976, pp. 268–9
- Mecacci, L. (2005). Luria: A unitary view of human brain and mind, Cortex, 41, 816-822.
- A.R Luria Archive at marxists.org
- A.R. Luria Archive @ Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition at lchc.ucsd.edu
- A Little Book About a Big (Vast) Memory An amateur translation from original Russian book.
- Alexander Luria - The Mind of a Mnemonist Jerome Brunner 1987 Harvard University Press
- Luria's Areas of the Human Cortex Involved in Language Illustrated summary of Luria's book Traumatic Aphasia.
- Yasnitsky, A. (2011). Vygotsky Circle as a Personal Network of Scholars: Restoring Connections Between People and Ideas. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, doi:10.1007/s12124-011-9168-5 pdf