Imágenes de páginas

dotted line rapidly sinks, and soon tumbles below the horizontal into the realm of the disagreeable or painful in which it declines. That all sensations are painful when too strong is a piece of familiar knowledge. Light, sound, odors, the taste of sweet even, cold, heat, and all the skinsensations, must be moderate to be enjoyed.

The quality of the sensation complicates the question, however, for in some sensations, as bitter, sour, salt, and certain smells, the turning point of the dotted curve must be drawn very near indeed to the beginning of the scale. In the skin the painful quality soon becomes so intense as entirely to overpower the specific quality of the sort of stimulus. Heat, cold, and pressure are indistinguishable when extreme -we only feel the pain. The hypothesis of separate endorgans in the skin receives some corroboration from recent experiments, for both Blix and Goldscheider have found, along with their special heat- and cold spots, also special 'pain-spots' on the skin. Mixed in with these are spots which are quite feelingless. However it may stand with the terminal pain-spots, separate paths of conduction to the brain, for painful and for merely tactile stimulations of the skin, are made probable by certain facts. In the condition termed analgesia, a touch is felt, but the most violent pinch, burn, or electric spark destructive of the tissue will awaken no sensation. This may occur in disease of the cord, by suggestion in hypnotism, or in certain stages of ether and chloroform intoxication. "In rabbits a similar state of things was produced by Schiff, by dividing the gray matter of the cord, leaving the posterior white columns intact. If, on the contrary, the latter were divided and the gray substance left, there was increased sensitiveness to pain, and possibly touch proper was lost. Such experiments make it pretty certain that when afferent impulses reach the spinal cord at any level and there enter its gray matter with the posterior root-fibres, they travel on in different tracts to conscious centres; the tactile ones coming soon out of the gray network and coursing on in a

readily conducting white fibre, while the painful ones travel on farther in the gray substance. It is still uncertain if both impulses reach the cord in the same fibres. The gray network conducts nerve-impulses, but not easily; they tend soon to be blocked in it. A feeble (tactile) impulse reaching it by an afferent fibre might only spread a short way and then pass out into a single good conducting fibre in a white column, and proceed to the brain; while a stronger (painful) impulse would radiate farther in the gray matter, and perhaps break out of it by many fibres leading to the brain through the white columns, and so give rise to an incoördinate and ill-localized sensation. That pains are badly localized, and worse the more intense they are, is a well-known fact, which would thus receive an explanation."

[ocr errors]

Pain also gives rise to ill-coördinated movements of defence. The stronger the pain the more violent the start. Doubtless in low animals pain is almost the only stimulus; and we have preserved the peculiarity in so far that to-day it is the stimulus of our most energetic, though not of our most discriminating, reactions.

Taste, smell, as well as hunger, thirst, nausea, and other so-called 'common' sensations need not be touched on in this book, as almost nothing of psychological interest is known concerning them.

*Martin: op. cit.



I TREAT of these in a separate chapter in order to give them the emphasis which their importance deserves. They are of two orders:

1) Sensations of objects moving over our sensory surfaces; and

2) Sensations of our whole person's translation through space.

1) The Sensation of Motion over Surfaces.-This has generally been assumed by physiologists to be impossible until the positions of terminus a quo and terminus ad quem are severally cognized, and the successive occupancies of these positions by the moving body are perceived to be separated by a distinct interval of time. As a matter of fact, however, we cognize only the very slowest motions in this way. Seeing the hand of a clock at XII and afterwards at VI, I judge that it has moved through the interval. Seeing the sun now in the east and again in the west, I infer it to have passed over my head. But we can only infer that which we already generically know in some more direct fashion, and it is experimentally certain that we have the feeling of motion given us as a direct and simple sensation. Czermak long ago pointed out the difference between seeing the motion of the second-hand of a watch, when we look directly at it, and noticing the fact that it has altered its position, whilst our gaze is fixed upon some other point of the dial-plate. In the first case we have a specific quality of sensation which is absent in the second. If the reader will find a portion of his skin-the arm, for example-where a pair of compass-points an inch

apart are felt as one impression, and if he will then trace lines a tenth of an inch long on that spot with a pencilpoint, he will be distinctly aware of the point's motion and vaguely aware of the direction of the motion. The per

ception of the motion here is certainly not derived from a preëxisting knowledge that its starting and ending points are separate positions in space, because positions in space ten times wider apart fail to be discriminated as such when excited by the compass-points. It is the same with the retina. One's fingers when cast upon its peripheral portions cannot be counted-that is to say, the five retinal tracts which they occupy are not distinctly apprehended by the mind as five separate positions in space-and yet the slightest movement of the fingers is most vividly perceived as movement and nothing else. It is thus certain that our sense of movement, being so much more delicate than our sense of position, cannot possibly be derived from it.

Vierordt, at almost the same time, called attention to certain persistent illusions, amongst which are these: If another person gently trace a line across our wrist or finger, the latter being stationary, it will feel to us as if the member were moving in the opposite direction to the tracing point. If, on the contrary, we move our limb across a fixed point, it will seem as if the point were moving as well. If the reader will touch his forehead with his forefinger kept motionless, and then rotate the head so that the skin of the forehead passes beneath the finger's tip, he will have an irresistible sensation of the latter being itself in motion in the opposite direction to the head. So in abducting the fingers from each other; some may move and the rest be still, but the still ones will feel as if they were actively separating from the rest. These illusions, according to Vierordt, are survivals of a primitive form of perception, when motion was felt as such, but ascribed to the whole 'content' of consciousness, and not yet distinguished as belonging exclusively to one of its parts. When

our perception is fully developed we go beyond the mere relative motion of thing and ground, and can ascribe absolute motion to one of these components of our total object, and absolute rest to another. When, in vision for example, the whole field of view seems to move together, we think it is ourselves or our eyes which are moving; and any object in the foreground which may seem to move relatively to the background is judged by us to be really still. But primitively this discrimination is not perfectly made. The sensation of the motion spreads over all that we see and infects it. Any relative motion of object and retina both makes the object seem to move, and makes us feel ourselves in motion. Even now when our whole field of view really does move we get giddy, and feel as if we too were moving; and we still see an apparent motion of the entire field of view whenever we suddenly jerk our head and eyes or shake them quickly to and fro. Pushing our eyeballs gives the same illusion. We know in all these cases what really happens, but the conditions are unusual, so our primitive sensation persists unchecked. So it does when clouds float by the moon. We know the moon is still; but we see it move faster than the clouds. Even when we slowly move our eyes the primitive sensation persists under the victorious conception. If we notice closely the experience, we find that any object towards which we look appears moving to meet our eye.

But the most valuable contribution to the subject is the paper of G. H. Schneider,* who takes up the matter zoölogically, and shows by examples from every branch of the animal kingdom that movement is the quality by which animals most easily attract each other's attention. The instinct of shamming death' is no shamming of death at all, but rather a paralysis through fear, which saves the insect, crustacean, or other creature from being noticed at all by his enemy. It is paralleled in the human race by

* Vierteljahrsch. für wiss. Philos., II. 377.

« AnteriorContinuar »