Saturday, January 12, 2008

Emotions: Thoughts & studies

The Relation Between the Physical State of the Brain-Cells and Brain Functions--Experimental and Clinical[*]

ddress before The American Philosophical Society, April 18, 1913.

The brain in all animals (including man) is but the clearing-house for reactions to environment, for animals are essentially motor or neuromotor mechanisms, composed of many parts, it is true, but integrated by the nervous system. Throughout the phylogenetic history of the race the stimuli of environment have driven this mechanism, whose seat of power--the battery--is the brain.

Since all normal life depends upon the response of the brain to the daily stimuli, we should expect in health, as well as in disease, to find modifications of the functions and the physical state of the component parts of this central battery-- the brain-cells. Although we must believe, then, that every reaction to stimuli, however slight, produces a corresponding change in the brain-cells, yet there are certain normal, that is, non-diseased, conditions which produce especially striking changes. The cell changes due to the emotions, for example, are so similar, and in extreme conditions approach so closely to the changes produced by disease, that it is impossible to say where the normal ceases and the abnormal begins.

In view of the similarity of brain-cell changes it is not strange that in the clinic as well as in daily life, we are confronted constantly by outward manifestations which are so nearly identical that the true underlying cause of the condition in any individual case is too often overlooked or misunderstood. In our laboratory experiments and in our clinical observations we have found that exhaustion produced by intense emotion, prolonged physical exertion, insomnia, intense fear, certain toxemias, hemorrhage, and the condition commonly denominated surgical shock, produce similar outward manifestations and identical brain-cell changes.
It is, therefore, the purpose of this paper to present the definite results of laboratory researches which show certain relations between alterations in brain functions and physical changes in the brain-cells.

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