An invitation to address a gathering of medical psychologists is, to the physiologist, a great temptation, and on such occasions he is apt to leap into the whirlpools of psychology in an attempt to explain the workings of the brain by hypotheses based, alas, on insufficient evidence. The paucity of information on cerebral function in physiological text-books has an explanation. Our lack of knowledge is due to the absence of available methods for investigating the normal activity of the higher nerve centres. Explanations are too often advanced without a due appreciation of the function of the lower nervous system in bringing about the exquisite co-ordination and relationship that exists between the different areas and organs of the body. This function is well exemplified in the reciprocal innervation of which we have evidence with every normal voluntary contraction. The difficulties of investigation have their root in the complexity of the reactions of an animal endowed with a well-developed cerebral cortex, compared with those seen in the lower types of life, or in the spinal animal. It must be clear that if our knowledge of the physiological factors controlling mental activity is to advance, the physiologist must continue to make measurements, accurate, quantitative measurements, if possible, on structures which he can control, and on preparations in which he is able to isolate the disturbing factors, and from these results and conclusions to construct by slow degrees a knowledge and understanding of the nervous system.
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