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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 38  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 199

Ribot's law and leo tolstoy

Department of Neurology, Ege University, Izmir, Turkey

Date of Submission25-Mar-2021
Date of Decision09-May-2021
Date of Acceptance10-May-2021
Date of Web Publication20-Sep-2021

Correspondence Address:
Cumhur Ertekin
Department of Neurology, Ege University, Izmir
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/nsn.nsn_53_21

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How to cite this article:
Ertekin C. Ribot's law and leo tolstoy. Neurol Sci Neurophysiol 2021;38:199

How to cite this URL:
Ertekin C. Ribot's law and leo tolstoy. Neurol Sci Neurophysiol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Oct 18];38:199. Available from: http://www.nsnjournal.org/text.asp?2021/38/3/199/326292

Dear Editor,

Théodule Armand Ribot (1839–1916) was a French Psychologist who hypothesized a memory disorder in 1881 that came to be known as Ribot's Law. According to this law, recent memories are more likely to be lost than the more remote memories, in the elderly and some demented patients.[1] It is also well known that Alzheimer's Disease is associated with a temporally graded retrograde amnesia indicating that older memories are somehow more resilient against neurodegeneration while newer memories are not.

I propose that this kind of memory problem has first been described by Leo Tolstoy in his famous novel of “War and Peace” published in 1869. This novel is regarded as one of Tolstoy's finest literary achievements and an internationally praised classic of world literature.[2]

When I read the novel “War and Peace,” I noticed that one of the older characters, Prince Nicolai Andreich Bolkonsky had been complaining that he was not able to recall newer memories but the older ones were easily remembered.[3] Prince Nicolai Andreich Bolkonsky was the father of Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky, one of the central characters in War and Peace. I should reiterate that the first publication time of the novel was 1869, 12 years before Ribot published his work on this topic in 1881. At the time both of these distinguished persons were probably unaware of each other's observations on human memory.

Nevertheless, we have to conclude that Théodule Armand Ribot was the first author describing Ribot's Law scientifically and Leo Tolstoy was one of the first novelists to describe this kind of amnesia in one fictional character of “War and Peace.”

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  References Top

Gullin V. “Theodule Ribot”s ambiguous positivism: Philosophical and epistemological strategies in the foundation of French Scientific Psychology. J Hist Behav Sci 2004;40;165-81.  Back to cited text no. 1
Briggs A. Introduction to War and Peace. London, England: Penguin Classics; 2005.  Back to cited text no. 2
Harp ve Sulh TL. Turkish Version of War and Peace; Interpreters; Vahdet Gultekin and Samih Tiryakioglu. Istanbul: Guven Basim ve Yayinevi; 1958. p. 157.  Back to cited text no. 3


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