Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/54

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44
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

I say she could not, because, though there was power in the muscles, there was no consciousness of power, and thus there could be no volition.

The plan of securing an unconscious volition is often very useful and sometimes indispensable in determining questions of diagnosis growing^ out of mental influence over function. The following incident occurred within the last few weeks: A young lady nineteen years old was sent to me from Albany for what was supposed to be partial paralysis of the left foot and ankle. She had been affected during the past three years, and was so far disabled that she could not walk more than a block or two without danger of falling, and she actually did fall very frequently.

The exciting cause, or that which called her attention to her foot, was the alleged slipping of the tendon of the peroneus longus muscle where it passes under the outer ankle-bone. She had no theory, fancy, or any other sentiment regarding her lameness whatever. She simply dropped her toes when walking, and was obliged to lift that limb very high to advance the foot and prevent stumbling. When, in examining her, I asked her to raise the foot, she was unable to do so. The muscles moving the ankle-joint were powerless. She was very simple-minded, and would try to do whatever I asked of her. So, making an excuse to get off her shoes and stockings, and keeping her attention while gradually working myself across the room, I suddenly asked her to come toward me, being careful to keep her eyes on me instead of her feet. The floor is of hard wood, and without covering, except a bearskin rug in front of where she sat. The hair tickled* her feet, and she came to me with toes elevated and walking on her heels. I then called her attention to the fact that she had bent her ankles to keep her bare feet from contact with the floor, and asked her to bend them again while looking at them. But she could not do it. I found means, however, to relieve the mental impression which interfered so effectually with the autonomy of locomotion, consciousness of power in the affected foot was restored, and, after having been lame for three years, she went home, within ten days, in a natural state.

But unconscious mental interference with the muscles is to be seen not only in loss of muscular power. Increased muscular action, simulating muscular spasm, may have a mental cause. This may be illustrated by a case. In the spring of 1864 a lady, about thirty-eight years old, unmarried, presented herself with a lame shoulder. Three weeks before, as she raised her right arm to turn the slats of the shutters, she felt a sharp pain in the shoulder. It may have been due to a somewhat energetic contraction of certain muscular fibers, such as most of us occasionally experience without any impression being left on the mind, but which in her case left a lasting effect.

I did not understand the true mental character of the difficulty, and the consequence was, that I got into a great deal of trouble before I