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Man, Machine, and Homeostasis 

Man, Machine, and Homeostasis
Man, Machine, and Homeostasis

James R. Munis

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date: 09 May 2021

Physiologist Claude Bernard lived in a time when very little was known about the mechanisms underlying physiologic findings, and he had ample access to clues garnered from observing machines. Let's consider homeostasis (a concept championed by Bernard), an example for which an engineered machine shed light on a fundamental principle of physiology. Homeostasis is simply the tendency of the body to maintain important physiologic variables (eg, heart rate, blood pressure, PACO2) at constant, preset values. An example is a simplified mechanical governor that could be used to regulate the rotational speed of a steam engine shaft. ‘Autoregulate’ might be a more apt word because the governor performs without external help or guidance, provided it is designed and built properly. It doesn't take much imagination to see an analogy between the mechanical governor and the autonomic nervous system. Both maintain specific variables at a constant set point through a process of feedback loops.

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