Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/557

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537
ELECTRICITY AND LIFE.

gained remarkable dexterity in dealing with, the electric agent, and detecting with the readiest insight the proper points for applying the battery-poles in each malady. Those who, with us, witnessed in 1864 his practice at the hospital, will remember it clearly. The methods of Duchenne were almost the only ones accepted in practice in France, till Remak came to prove to Paris physicians the powers of electrization by constant currents, in cases where Faraday's currents had been without effect. The teaching of the Berlin practitioner bore its fruits. A rising young physician, Hiffelsheim, was beginning to spread throughout Paris the use of the constant current as a healing agent, when death removed him in 1866, in the flower of his age. Another physician, who benefited by the lessons of Remak, Onimus, resumed the interrupted labors of Hiffelsheim, and is now busy in completing the system of the methods of electric medical practice, by subjecting them to an exact knowledge of electro-physiological laws. A few instances, from the mass of facts published on the subject, will serve to show how far the efficiency of these methods has actually been carried.

Experiment proves that, under certain conditions, the electric current contracts the vessels, and thus checks the flow of blood into the organs. Now, a great number of disorders are marked by too rapid a flow of blood, by what are known as congestions. Some forms of delirium and brain-excitement, as also many hallucinations of the different senses, are thus marked, and these are entirely cured by the application of the electric current to the head. No organ possesses a vascular system so delicate and complex as the brain's, nor is there any so sensitive to the action of causes that modify the circulation. For this reason, disorders seated in the brain are peculiarly amenable to electric treatment, and, when carefully applied, it is remedial in brain-fevers, mental delirium, headaches, and sleeplessness. Physicians who first employed the current were quite aware of this benign influence of the galvanic fluid over brain-disorders, and even had the idea of utilizing it in the treatment of insanity. Experiments in that direction have not been continued, but the facts published by Hiffelsheim justify the belief that they would not be barren. These facts testify to the benefits that electric currents (we mean only continuous ones) may some day yield in brain-diseases—a point worth the attention of physicians for the insane. Till lately it was thought that electricity was a powerful stimulant only, but what is true of interrupted currents is not true as to currents from the battery. Far from being always a stimulant, the latter may become in certain cases, as Hiffelsheim maintained, a sedative and calming agent. This control over circulation, joined with the electrolytic power of the galvanic current, allows its employment in the treatment of various kinds of congestions. A congested state of the lymphatic ganglia, the parotid glands, etc., may be relieved by this means, the current acting in such cases