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Remarks on Evolution and Dissolution of the Nervous System

  • J. Hughlings Jackson (a1)

(1) The Universal Symptomatology of an Epileptic Fit owing to discrge beginning in some part of the highest cerebral centres.—There is but little doubt that in a severe epileptic paroxysm (“genuine epilepsy”) there are effects, although very crude ones, produced in, or referred to, all parts of the body, animal and organic. Speaking figuratively, there is an endeavour to develop activity of all parts of the body excessively, and of all of them at once,∗ and as rapidly as possible.

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* Certain qualifications will be given to these statements later on. “Coma is a fulminant form of insanity; insanity is a lingering form of coma. Pathologically, coma is loss of function of the nervous centres, beginning in the highest centres of all; in those centres, which are the substrata of consciousness which effect the adjustment of the organism as a whole to its environment, which represent, first and most, the most precise and elaborate bodily movements, and which represent in some degree every part of the organism.” —Dr. Mercier, Brain, January, 1887, p. 483.

* My hypothesis is that the middle and highest motor centres are only chiefly motor, and that the middle and highest sensory are only chiefly sensory.

* Some time ago (“Med. Times and Gazette,” March 1, 1879) I suggested that “there are movements, organic and animal, concerned during emotional states, which will have an exceedingly wide representation in the cerebrum, and probably more directly in the highest centres than any other class of movements.“

* The formula of evolution states a doctrine of localization, and one very different from the current one. Integration, a very important factor, is ignored by the current doctrine. It is an exceedingly important factor. It is admirably and very simply stated by Dr. Mercier, who, in an article to be referred to again presently, p. 480, writes: ‘Such centres [lowest centres] represent a limited part of the body very strongly; they represent little else, and that little but feebly. But in the highest regions each centre represents a large part of the organism preponderatingly, a still larger part in less degree, and the whole of the organism in some degree. And in the intermediate centres the representation is intermediate in character, a larger or smaller area being preponderatingly represented, and the halo of partial representation being larger or smaller, while the intensity of representation is less or more, according as the centre is more or less elevated in the hierarchy of the nervous system.”

I have used terms more familiar to medical men than those Spencer uses. For this change, of course, Spencer is not answerable, nor must he be held responsible for the correctness of my statements and applications of his formula of evolution. I should consider it a great calamity, were any crudities of mine imputed to a man to whom I feel profoundly indebted. It is for this reason that I do not quote Spencer in other parts of this article, although I believe it to be pervaded by Spencerian ideas.

* This sentence implies more than has been expressly stated, viz., that each unit of the highest centres is a miniature highest centre, that is, represents in some degree the whole organism (Factor Integration), no two units representing it in just the same way (Factor Differentiation).

* Perhaps this storage is better described as being part of the nutritive process.

* For many medical purposes I could adopt the second doctrine if it were formulated that the brain had two functions—one mental, and the other that of co-ordinating parts of the body.

* I admit the distinction into Subject and Object consciousness, and also that into faint and vivid states of consciousness.

* It may, however, be said that it has not been shown that the principle of conservation of energy does apply in physiology. On this matter I quote from Daniel's “Principles of Physics,” p. 45: “There is one case in which the principle of the conservation of energy is not as yet definitely established. This is in the domain of Physiology, but the words of Clark Maxwell may, in this connection, be quoted: ‘It would be rash to assert that any experiments on living beings have, as yet, been conducted with such precision as to account for every foot pound of work done by an animal in terms of the diminution of the intrinsic energy of the body and its contents; but the principle of Conservation of Energy has acquired so much scientific weight during the last twenty years, that no physiologist would feel any confidence in an experiment which showed a considerable difference between the work done by an animal and the balance of the amount of Energy recovered and spent.’”“Nature,” Vol. xix., p. 142.

I mean that they would not in scientific exposition. I no more object to the statement that “fright makes the heart beat,” or that “mind influences the body” at a clinical conference, than I do to the statement that the “sun rises in the east” in ordinary talk. But the mind does not influence the body, although the highest centres affect the rest of the body, and the sun does not rise in the east.

* The illustrations are arbitrarily simplified. The nervous arrangements discharged during any mental process no doubt represent the whole body (Integration), although some part of it most (specialization); daring visual perception those discharged represent most especially the retinal and ocular parts of the body.

* My belief is that what are called the manifestations of fear are really after-effects of a discharge. Fear is anger broken down, and is antithetical to anger in that sense.

* When there is the “dreamy state” there is double consciousness (“mental diplopia”), there being remains of consciousness as to present surroundings (remains of object consciousness), and increase of consciousness as to some former surroundings (increase of subject consciousness).

* As remarked when speaking of different varieties of epilepsies, of epiletiform seizures, and of bulbar, &c., fits, there are fits from discharges of different levels of evolution. These have to be compared and contrasted, and also the paralyses after fits of each kind.

I have gone into this matter at length in the Bowman Lecture, delivered Nov., 1885, and published in “Ophthalmological Society's Transactions,” Vol. vi. I do not mean that there is demonstration that literally all parts are involved.

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
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Remarks on Evolution and Dissolution of the Nervous System

  • J. Hughlings Jackson (a1)
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