Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/657

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REFLEX ACTION AND DISEASE.

omitted here on account of the detailed description that would be required to make them intelligible.

Naturalists should not be slow to appreciate the conscientious labor which alone has led Mr. Hyatt to these results, or to follow up the line of investigation which he has opened.

 

REFLEX ACTION AND DISEASE.[1]
By T. LAUDER BRUNTON, F. R. S.

AS a preliminary to the paper of this evening upon reflex action as a cause of disease and a method of cure, I must say a word about reflex action itself, and also about another subject with which it is very closely connected, viz., the transference of impressions.

Reflex action is the effect produced by an impression made upon a sensory nerve, transmitted by that nerve to a nerve-center, and reflected or thrown back along a motor nerve in much the same way as we may imagine the force to be which is applied to one end of a string running over a pulley and transmitted in a different direction by the other end to produce a certain effect. If we fancy the farther end of the string to be divided into several strands, each of which is attached to a different object, and which may be, separately or together, affected by a pull on the nearer end of the string, we shall form a still more definite notion of reflex action, for an impression made upon the same sensory nerve may produce various results, according to the strength of the impression and the efferent nerve-channel along which it is thrown back by the nerve-center. An impression made upon a sensory nerve, for example, may produce motion of either a voluntary or involuntary muscle, or may affect the nutrition of a tissue. Under the head of involuntary muscles we must class the muscular fibers of the vessels, and those vascular changes which in themselves play a great part in nutrition and secretion may be very greatly influenced by impressions made upon sensory nerves. The way in which we know that the nutrition of a tissue may be influenced reflexly apart from the changes in the vessels is, that observations on the submaxillary gland have demonstrated that we may, under certain conditions, obtain vascular changes without the secretion which usually accompanies them, and that, vice versa, we may obtain secretion without the vascular changes which ordinarily accompany it. Thus, on stimulating the nerves of the tongue, the impression which we make is usually transmitted by the fifth nerve to the brain, and is thence reflected down the chorda tympani to the submaxillary gland. There it induces dilatation of the vessels, and free secretion of saliva from the gland. But if we administer atropia we do away with one of these

  1. Read before the Abernethian Society, St. Bartholomew's Hospital.