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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Brain and Nerve Cells

Brain and Nerve Cells.

After that there were slides showing diagrams of the brain and nervous system and photo micrographs taken by Dr Mann, Ford-Robertson, and others. It was explained how ingoing impulses were conveyed through the sensory nerves to the cells of the brain and spinal cord, and outgoing impulses to the muscles, glands, etc. Then attention was centred on a small spot of the highest region of the brain, the size of a large pin's head in reality, but magnified to cover the screen. (See Fig. II. Opposite page.) Here were the actual psychic cells—the cells upon which depend our thoughts, memories, feelings, and consciousness. They looked like leafless trees with tall, slim trunks and a tracery of delicate branches and infinitely slender twigs above and roots below. Here was the obvious physical basis for the association of ideas, impulses passing from one nerve cell to another through the twigs and rootlets. This was the highest central department. Here incoming messages were received, registered, deliberated over, and dealt with, and outgoing messages were despatched. See Fig. III., page 60. It was like a central telephone bureau, the communications and switchings taking place by contact from fibril to twig and from twig to twig or rootlet to rootlet of neighboring cells. Upon the proper cultivation and orderly growth of the ramifications of the psychic cells depend the capacity and resourcefulness of the mind. There can be no reasonable doubt that the growth which would be promoted by moderate and normal stimulation would be marred by overs train or other inimical influences. These cells or trees had the lower part of the trunk of each plunged in a dilatation of a channel of clear running fluid, which it was explained transuded from the blood. These each nerve cell was bathed, not in actual blood, but in a kind of filtered blood stream.

The doctor then went on to explain hot these cells became depressed or poisoned by any harmful substances which found their way into the circulation. The quality of the blood stream determined the working power of the cells which it fed, and which were actually bathed in it. That this was so was obvions when we considered the almost immediate effect of holding a handkerchief sprinkled with chloroform over the face. In a moment the cell was bathed in a stream of poison. The effect of alcohol was slower but analogout. It was not so obvious that lack of exercise and constipation acted in the same way, but it was so. Alcohol was produced outside the body by the action of minute organisation on sugar, and organisms acting on substances delayed in the alimentary canal were capable of producing analogous persons, which were absorbed into the blood stream. But there was a more important source of poisoning than this when vital process became inactive or impaired. Every living cell produced waste substance which had to be got rid of and if the process of elimination was impeded, depressed vitality or actual poisoning resulted. Is fermentation the yeast plant produced alcohol, which stopped its growth if not removed moved, and sort was with the cells of our body. It was especially necessary that the body of a growing child should be kept full activity and the best of health, beats the rapid changes going on entail the production of poisons which not only depress function, but tend to arrest growth. As the French author of a recent book on that auto-intoxication of pregnant women said the healthy organism "est une fabrique de-

page 59
Fig. II

Fig. II

Diagram of a Minute Area of the Highest Portion of the Human Brain, highly magnified.—(Adapted and modified from Sir Batty Tuke's "Insanity of Over-exertion of the Brain.")

page 60

poisons"—a veritable poison factory—the functioning of the organism being absolutely dependent on the integrity of the excretory glands, whose duty it is to eliminate noxious substance. Otherwise both mother and child suffered. Now, when there was poison in the blood the bruin cells, being the most delicate and responsive, were the first to suffer, and when they were affected the whole organism became secondarily involved to a greater or leaser extent, because the presided over and directed, as it were, function and nutrition of every organ and tissue to the very nails and finger-tips.

Fig. III.—Scheme of the highest region of Human Brain, showing the direction of flow of Nerve Currents from Fibres to Cells, and from Cell to Cell. (After Cajal.)

Fig. III.—Scheme of the highest region of Human Brain, showing the direction of flow of Nerve Currents from Fibres to Cells, and from Cell to Cell. (After Cajal.)

Here the lecturer used a simile that [unclear: in] apt enough, thus : If the general in [unclear: com] mand of a field force is incapacitated [unclear: a] killed, and there is no other general [unclear: t] take his place, the direction of [unclear: man] will fall on subordinate shoulders that [unclear: mg] not be fit to bear the strain, and so the process may go on to ultimate chat, I with the human being. The highest [unclear: h] cells control the organism, and they [unclear: al] can fulfil their proper functions. When [unclear: p] son dulls them the man becomes like the leaderless army, he becomes dominated three lower centres, and various functions tend to either run riot or sink under a strain the they were never meant to bear. [unclear: Thee] brain itself is composed of what the [unclear: phy] logest calls noble and ignoble tissue. The noble tissue is the effective part, and the ignoble tissne is mostly packing. In a [unclear: gr] many of the cases that go to Dr [unclear: Ka] tare at Seacliff there is an increase of [unclear: ex] ignoble at the excuse of the noble.