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Physiology Quotes (45 quotes)

[When recording electrical impulses from a frog nerve-muscle preparation seemed to show a tiresomely oscillating electrical artefact—but only when the muscle was hanging unsupported.] The explanation suddenly dawned on me ... a muscle hanging under its own weight ought, if you come to think of it, to be sending sensory impulses up the nerves coming from the muscle spindles ... That particular day’s work, I think, had all the elements that one could wish for. The new apparatus seemed to be misbehaving very badly indeed, and I suddenly found it was behaving so well that it was opening up an entire new range of data ... it didn’t involve any particular hard work, or any particular intelligence on my part. It was just one of those things which sometimes happens in a laboratory if you stick apparatus together and see what results you get.
From 'Memorable experiences in research', Diabetes (1954), 3, 17-18. As cited in Alan McComa, Galvani's Spark: The Story of the Nerve Impulse (2011), 102-103.
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A good physiological experiment like a good physical one requires that it should present anywhere, at any time, under identical conditions, the same certain and unequivocal phenomena that can always be confirmed.
Bestätigung des Bell'schen Lehrsatzes, dass die doppelten Wurzeln der Rückenmarksnerven verschiedene Functionen haben, durch neue nod entscheidende Experimente' (1831). Trans. Edwin Clarke and C. D. O'Malley, The Human Brain and Spinal Cord (1968), 304.
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A man cannot marry before he has studied anatomy and has dissected at the least one woman.
The Physiology of Marriage (1826), trans. Sharon Marcus (1997), Aphorism XXVII, 63.
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Anatomy is to physiology as geography is to history; it describes the theatre of events.
De Naturali Parte Medicinae Libri Septem (1542), Ch. 1.
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At the beginning of its existence as a science, biology was forced to take cognizance of the seemingly boundless variety of living things, for no exact study of life phenomena was possible until the apparent chaos of the distinct kinds of organisms had been reduced to a rational system. Systematics and morphology, two predominantly descriptive and observational disciplines, took precedence among biological sciences during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. More recently physiology has come to the foreground, accompanied by the introduction of quantitative methods and by a shift from the observationalism of the past to a predominance of experimentation.
In Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937, 1982), 6.
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Biology can be divided into the study of proximate causes, the study of the physiological sciences (broadly conceived), and into the study of ultimate (evolutionary) causes, the subject of natural history.
The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution and Inheritance (1982), 67.
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Casting off the dark fog of verbal philosophy and vulgar medicine, which inculcate names alone ... I tried a series of experiments to explain more clearly many phenomena, particularly those of physiology. In order that I might subject as far as possible the reasonings of the Galenists and Peripatetics to sensory criteria, I began, after trying experiments, to write dialogues in which a Galenist adduced the better-known and stronger reasons and arguments; these a mechanist surgeon refuted by citing to the contrary the experiments I had tried, and a third, neutral interlocutor weighed the reasons advanced by both and provided an opportunity for further progress.
'Malpighi at Pisa 1656-1659', in H. B. Adelmann (ed.), Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology (1966), Vol. 1, 155-6.
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Descriptive anatomy is to physiology what geography is to history, and just as it is not enough to know the typography of a country to understand its history, so also it is not enough to know the anatomy of organs to understand their functions.
Lectures on the Phenomena of Life Common to Animals and Plants (1878), trans. Hebbel E. Hoff, Roger Guillemin and Lucienne Guillemin (1974), 7.
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Dissection ... teaches us that the body of man is made up of certain kinds of material, so differing from each other in optical and other physical characters and so built up together as to give the body certain structural features. Chemical examination further teaches us that these kinds of material are composed of various chemical substances, a large number of which have this characteristic that they possess a considerable amount of potential energy capable of being set free, rendered actual, by oxidation or some other chemical change. Thus the body as a whole may, from a chemical point of view, be considered as a mass of various chemical substances, representing altogether a considerable capital of potential energy.
From Introduction to A Text Book of Physiology (1876, 1891), Book 1, 1.
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Effects vary with the conditions which bring them to pass, but laws do not vary. Physiological and pathological states are ruled by the same forces; they differ only because of the special conditions under which the vital laws manifest themselves.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957),10.
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I am convinced that an important stage of human thought will have been reached when the physiological and the psychological, the objective and the subjective, are actually united, when the tormenting conflicts or contradictions between my consciousness and my body will have been factually resolved or discarded.
Physiology of the Higher Nervous Activity (1932), 93-4.
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I believe that women‐centred, physiologically accurate knowledge of what is normal related to our female bodies, menopause, menstrual cycles and many other aspects of our health does not exist.
Address to First Congress on Women, Health, and Work (Barcelona, 1996). As quoted in 'Aphorism of the Month', Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (Dec 2007), 61, Suppl. 2, 932.
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I really see no harm which can come of giving our children a little knowledge of physiology. ... The instruction must be real, based upon observation, eked out by good explanatory diagrams and models, and conveyed by a teacher whose own knowledge has been acquired by a study of the facts; and not the mere catechismal parrot-work which too often usurps the place of elementary teaching.
Science and Culture (1882), 92.
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I should object to any experimentation which can justly be called painful, for the purpose of elementary instruction ... [but I regret] a condition of the law which permits a boy to troll for pike, or set lines with live frog bait, for idle amusement; and, at the same time, lays the teacher of that boy open to the penalty of fine and imprisonment, if he uses the same animal for the purpose of exhibiting one of the most beautiful and instructive of physiological spectacles, the circulation in the web of the foot. ... [Maybe the frog is] inconvenienced by being wrapped up in a wet rag, and having his toes tied out ... But you must not inflict the least pain on a vertebrated animal for scientific purposes (though you may do a good deal in that way for gain or for sport) without due licence of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, granted under the authority of the Vivisection Act.
... [Yet, in] 1877, two persons may be charged with cruelty to animals. One has impaled a frog, and suffered the creature to writhe about in that condition for hours; the other has pained the animal no more than one of us would be pained by tying strings round his fingers, and keeping him in the position of a hydropathic patient. The first offender says, 'I did it because I find fishing very amusing,' and the magistrate bids him depart in peace; nay, probably wishes him good sport. The second pleads, 'I wanted to impress a scientific truth, with a distinctness attainable in no other way, on the minds of my scholars,' and the magistrate fines him five pounds.
I cannot but think that this is an anomalous and not wholly creditable state of things.
'On Elementary Instruction in Physiology'. Science and Culture (1882), 92.
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I venture to maintain, that, if the general culture obtained in the Faculty of Arts were what it ought to be, the student would have quite as much knowledge of the fundamental principles of Physics, of Chemistry, and of Biology, as he needs, before he commenced his special medical studies. Moreover, I would urge, that a thorough study of Human Physiology is, in itself, an education broader and more comprehensive than much that passes under that name. There is no side of the intellect which it does not call into play, no region of human knowledge into which either its roots, or its branches, do not extend; like the Atlantic between the Old and the New Worlds, its waves wash the shores of the two worlds of matter and of mind; its tributary streams flow from both; through its waters, as yet unfurrowed by the keel of any Columbus, lies the road, if such there be, from the one to the other; far away from that Northwest Passage of mere speculation, in which so many brave souls have been hopelessly frozen up.
'Universities: Actual and Ideal' (1874). In Collected Essays (1893), Vol. 3, 220.
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In physiology, as in all other sciences, no discovery is useless, no curiosity misplaced or too ambitious, and we may be certain that every advance achieved in the quest of pure knowledge will sooner or later play its part in the service of man.
The Linacre Lecture on the Law of the Heart (1918), 147.
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Intelligence is important in psychology for two reasons. First, it is one of the most scientifically developed corners of the subject, giving the student as complete a view as is possible anywhere of the way scientific method can be applied to psychological problems. Secondly, it is of immense practical importance, educationally, socially, and in regard to physiology and genetics.
From Intelligence: Its Structure, Growth and Action: Its Structure, Growth and Action (1987), 1.
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It has been recognized that hydrogen bonds restrain protein molecules to their native configurations, and I believe that as the methods of structural chemistry are further applied to physiological problems it will be found that the significance of the hydrogen bond for physiology is greater than that of any other single structural feature.
Nature of the Chemical Bond and the Structure of Molecules and Crystals (1939), 265.
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It seems to me that you are solving a problem which goes beyond the limits of physiology in too simple a way. Physiology has realized its problem with fortitude, breaking man down into endless actions and counteractions and reducing him to a crossing, a vortex of reflex acts. Let it now permit sociology to restore him as a whole. Sociology will wrest man from the anatomical theatre and return him to history.
Letter to his son, Alexander, July-Aug 1868. Trans. Roger Smith, Inhibition: History and Meaning in the Sciences of Mind and Brain (1992), 223.
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Logic is not concerned with human behavior in the same sense that physiology, psychology, and social sciences are concerned with it. These sciences formulate laws or universal statements which have as their subject matter human activities as processes in time. Logic, on the contrary, is concerned with relations between factual sentences (or thoughts). If logic ever discusses the truth of factual sentences it does so only conditionally, somewhat as follows: if such-and-such a sentence is true, then such-and-such another sentence is true. Logic itself does not decide whether the first sentence is true, but surrenders that question to one or the other of the empirical sciences.
Logic (1937). In The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics (1967), 44.
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Nature may be as selfishly studied as trade. Astronomy to the selfish becomes astrology; psychology, mesmerism (with intent to show where aour spoons are gone); and anatomy and physiology become phrenology and palmistry.
Essay, 'Nature', in Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alfred Riggs Ferguson (ed.) and Jean Ferguson Carr (ed.), The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Volume III, Essays: Second Series (1984), 13.
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Physiological experiment on animals is justifiable for real investigation, but not for mere damnable and detestable curiosity.
letter to E. Ray Lankester
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Physiological response to thinking and to pain is the same; and man is not given to hurting himself.
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Physiology is concerned with all those phenomena of life that present them selves to us in sense perception as bodily processes, and accordingly form part of that total environment which we name the external world.

Physiology is the basis of all medical improvement and in precise proportion as our survey of it becomes more accurate and extended, it is rendered more solid.
In 'An Inquiry, Analogical and Experimental, into the Different Electrical conditions of Arterial and Venous Blood', New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal (1853-4), 10, 584-602 & 738-757. As cited in George B. Roth, 'Dr. John Gorrie—Inventor of Artificial Ice and Mechanical Refrigeration', The Scientific Monthly (May 1936) 42 No. 5, 464-469.
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Physiology is the stepchild of medicine. That is why Cinderella often turns out the queen.

Physiology seeks to derive the processes in our own nervous system from general physical forces, without considering whether these processes are or are not accompanied by processes of consciousness.

Physiology, in its analysis of the physiological functions of the sense organs, must use the results of subjective observation of sensations; and psychology, in its turn, needs to know the physiological aspects of sensory function, in order rightly to appreciate the psychological.

Psychology is physiology above the collar button.
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Scientific physiology has the task of determining the functions of the animal body and deriving them as a necessary consequence from its elementary conditions.
Lehrbuch der Physiologie des Menschens (1852), Vol 1, 1. Trans. Paul F. Cranefield, 'The Organic Physics of 1847 and the Biophysics of Today', Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (1957), 12, 410.
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The constant conditions which are maintained in the body might be termed equilibria. That word, however, has come to have fairly exact meaning as applied to relatively simple physico-chemical states, in closed systems, where known forces are balanced. The coordinated physiological processes which maintain most of the steady states in the organism are so complex and so peculiar to living beings- involving, as they may, the brain and nerves, the heart, lungs, kidneys and spleen, all working cooperatively—that I have suggested a special designation for these states, homeostasis. The word does not imply something set and immobile, a stagnation. It means a condition-a condition which may vary, but which is relatively constant.
The Wisdom of the Body (1932), 24.
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The horrors of Vivisection have supplanted the solemnity, the thrilling fascination, of the old unetherized operation upon the human sufferer. Their recorded phenomena, stored away by the physiological inquisitor on dusty shelves, are mostly of as little present use to man as the knowledge of a new comet or of a tungstate of zirconium … —contemptibly small compared with the price paid for it in agony and torture.
From address to the Massachusetts Medical Society (7 Jun 1871), 'Medical Education in America', collected in Surgical Anaesthesia: Addresses, and Other Papers (1894, 1900), 309.
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The physiological combustion theory takes as its starting point the fundamental principle that the amount of heat that arises from the combustion of a given substance is an invariable quantity–i.e., one independent of the circumstances accompanying the combustion–from which it is more specifically concluded that the chemical effect of the combustible materials undergoes no quantitative change even as a result of the vital process, or that the living organism, with all its mysteries and marvels, is not capable of generating heat out of nothing.
Bemerkungen über das mechanische Aequivalent der Wärme [Remarks on the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat] (1851), 17-9. Trans. Kenneth L. Caneva, Robert Mayer and the Conservation of Energy (1993), 240.
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The power of the eye could not be extended further in the opened living animal, hence I had believed that this body of the blood breaks into the empty space, and is collected again by a gaping vessel and by the structure of the walls. The tortuous and diffused motion of the blood in divers directions, and its union at a determinate place offered a handle to this. But the dried lung of the frog made my belief dubious. This lung had, by chance, preserved the redness of the blood in (what afterwards proved to be) the smallest vessels, where by means of a more perfect lens, no more there met the eye the points forming the skin called Sagrino, but vessels mingled annularly. And, so great is the divarication of these vessels as they go out, here from a vein, there from an artery, that order is no longer preserved, but a network appears made up of the prolongations of both vessels. This network occupies not only the whole floor, but extends also to the walls, and is attached to the outgoing vessel, as I could see with greater difficulty but more abundantly in the oblong lung of a tortoise, which is similarly membranous and transparent. Here it was clear to sense that the blood flows away through the tortuous vessels, that it is not poured into spaces but always works through tubules, and is dispersed by the multiplex winding of the vessels.
De Pulmonibus (1661), trans. James Young, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (1929-30), 23, 8.
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The specific character of the greater part of the toxins which are known to us (I need only instance such toxins as those of tetanus and diphtheria) would suggest that the substances produced for effecting the correlation of organs within the body, through the intermediation of the blood stream, might also belong to this class, since here also specificity of action must be a distinguishing characteristic. These chemical messengers, however, or 'hormones' (from όρμάω, I excite or arouse), as we might call them, have to be carried from the organ where they are produced to the organ which they affect by means of the blood stream and the continually recurring physiological needs of the organism must determine their repeated production and circulation through the body.
'The Chemical Correlation of the Functions of the Body', The Lancet (1905), ii, 340.
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The steady states of the fluid matrix of the body are commonly preserved by physiological reactions, i.e., by more complicated processes than are involved in simple physico-chemical equilibria. Special designations, therefore, are appropriate:—“homeostasis” to designate stability of the organism; “homeostatic conditions,” to indicate details of the stability; and “homeostatic reactions,” to signify means for maintaining stability.
'Physiological Regulation of Normal States: Some Tentative Postulates Concerning Biological Homeostatics', 1926. Reprinted in L. L. Langley (ed.), Homeostasis: Origins of the Concept (1973), 246.
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There are those who say that the human kidney was created to keep the blood pure, or more precisely, to keep our internal environment in an ideal balanced state. This I must deny. I grant that the human kidney is a marvelous organ, but I cannot grant that it was purposefully designed to excrete urine or to regulate the composition of the blood or to subserve the physiological welfare of Homo sapiens in any sense. Rather I contend that the human kidney manufactures the kind of urine that it does, and it maintains the blood in the composition which that fluid has, because this kidney has a certain functional architecture; and it owes that architecture not to design or foresight or to any plan, but to the fact that the earth is an unstable sphere with a fragile crust, to the geologic revolutions that for six hundred million years have raised and lowered continents and seas, to the predacious enemies, and heat and cold, and storms and droughts; to the unending succession of vicissitudes that have driven the mutant vertebrates from sea into fresh water, into desiccated swamps, out upon the dry land, from one habitation to another, perpetually in search of the free and independent life, perpetually failing, for one reason or another, to find it.
From Fish to Philosopher (1953), 210-1.
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There is no existing ‘standard of protein intake’ that is based on the sure ground of experimental evidence. ... Between the two extremes of a very high and a very low protein intake it is difficult to prove that one level of intake is preferable to another. ... Physiologists, in drawing up dietary standards, are largely influenced by the dietary habits of their time and country.
Nutrition and Public Health', League of Nations Health Organization Quarterly Bulletin (1935) 4, 323–474. In Kenneth J. Carpenter, 'The Work of Wallace Aykroyd: International Nutritionist and Author', The Journal of Nutrition (2007), 137, 873-878.
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These hormones still belong to the physiologist and to the clinical investigator as much as, if not more than, to the practicing physician. But as Professor Starling said many years ago, 'The physiology of today is the medicine of tomorrow'.
'The Reversibility of Certain Rheumatic and Non-rheumatic Conditions by the use of Cortisone or of the Pituitary Adrenocorticotropic Hormone', Nobel Lecture, 11 Dec 1950. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1942- 1962 (1964), 334.
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Throughout the last four hundred years, during which the growth of science had gradually shown men how to acquire knowledge of the ways of nature and mastery over natural forces, the clergy have fought a losing battle against science, in astronomy and geology, in anatomy and physiology, in biology and psychology and sociology. Ousted from one position, they have taken up another. After being worsted in astronomy, they did their best to prevent the rise of geology; they fought against Darwin in biology, and at the present time they fight against scientific theories of psychology and education. At each stage, they try to make the public forget their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be recognized for what it is.
From An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1937, 1943), 6. Collected in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (2009), 47.
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Unhappily for the physiologist, the subjects of the principal department of his science, that of animal physiology, are sentient beings; and every experiment, every new or unusual situation of such a being, is necessarily attended by pain or suffering of a bodily or mental kind.
A Critical and Experimental Essay on the Circulation of the Blood (1831), 1.
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We come back then to our records of nervous messages with a reasonable assurance that they do tell us what the message is like. It is a succession of brief waves of surface breakdown, each allowing a momentary leakage of ions from the nerve fibre. The waves can be set up so that they follow one another in rapid or in slow succession, and this is the only form of gradation of which the message is capable. Essentially the same kind of activity is found in all sorts of nerve fibres from all sorts of animals and there is no evidence to suggest that any other kind of nervous transmission is possible. In fact we may conclude that the electrical method can tell us how the nerve fibre carries out its function as the conducting unit of the nervous system, and that it does so by reactions of a fairly simple type.
The Mechanism of Nervous Action (1932), 21.
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[Beyond natural history] Other biological sciences take up the study at other levels of organization: dissecting the individual into organs and tissues and seeing how these work together, as in physiology; reaching down still further to the level of cells, as in cytology; and reaching the final biological level with the study of living molecules and their interactions, as in biochemistry. No one of these levels can be considered as more important than any other.
In The Nature of Natural History (1961, 2014), 7.
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[Helmholtz] is not a philosopher in the exclusive sense, as Kant, Hegel, Mansel are philosophers, but one who prosecutes physics and physiology, and acquires therein not only skill in developing any desideratum, but wisdom to know what are the desiderata, e.g., he was one of the first, and is one of the most active, preachers of the doctrine that since all kinds of energy are convertible, the first aim of science at this time. should be to ascertain in what way particular forms of energy can be converted into each other, and what are the equivalent quantities of the two forms of energy. Letter to Lewis Campbell (21 Apr 1862).
In P. M. Harman (ed.), The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell (1990), Vol. 1, 711.
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[The] weakness of biological balance studies has aptly been illustrated by comparison with the working of a slot machine. A penny brings forth one package of chewing gum; two pennies bring forth two. Interpreted according to the reasoning of balance physiology, the first observation is an indication of the conversion of copper into gum; the second constitutes proof.
[Co-author with David Rittenberg (1906-70).]
'The Application of Isotopes to the Study of Intermediary Metabolism', Science (1938), 87, 222.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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