Studies in the Osteopathic
Basic Principles: Volume
Louisa Burns, M.S., D.O., D.Sc.O.
THE NERVES UNIFY THE ORGANS OF THE BODY.
Need of Unity of Function.
The metabolism of the multicellular animals differs from that of the simpler
animals and from all plants in the need for some method for unifying the
functions of the body. Unicellular organisms or the cells of undifferentiated
tissues react to their environment each for itself, with no apparent regard
for the conditions of their neighbors. Plants, even of considerable complexity
of structure, exhibit no correlation of activity such as is displayed by
even quite simple animals with nervous systems. Plants make no speedy
reply to changes in their environment; their adaptation also is very slow;
they live the life prepared for them by their ages of inheritance.
same conditions are true of those simple animals which have not attained
the dignity of a nervous system. These do not lack for the unifying
powers of the nervous system, because their cells are not differentiated
and so act all alike, each in answer to its own environment. Such
simple animals do not quickly adapt themselves to changes in their environment.
display very remarkable instances of regeneration of lost parts, but make
no very evident efforts toward compensation. In animals which possess
simple nervous systems these seem to exercise some control over the processes
of regeneration. Among the higher animals, with their well organized
and efficient nervous systems, the phenomena of regeneration disappear,
and are superseded by the phenomena of compensation. Regeneration
is not altogether lacking in our own bodies, as, for instance, the epithelial
cells are continually being regenerated and continually being lost.
large and complex bodies of the higher animals and of man could scarcely
survive were it not for the unity of action secured by the action of the
The Function of Nerves.
refers to the nerves as “bridges of protoplasm uniting the sense organs
with the muscles.” The nerves are bridges which unite the various
structures with their various functions into an integral whole. The
nerve cells, with their unstable protoplasm and their long unbroken filaments
so well adapted to the transmission of the metabolic conditions of one
part of their substance to all other parts, with their intimate relationship
with skin, muscle, gland, and sense organs, with their rapid metabolism
and with their long life, are surely well adapted to their function of
unification. They unify the many activities of the body in health
as well as in disease; they unify the individual of today with the individual
of yesterday; they unify the individual with the other members of his
race; by the action of the higher association centers, the race is unified
in power, in needs, in aims, in attainments and in inheritance. The
whole function of the nervous system is comprehended in the statement that
it unifies the individual in his reply to his environment.
Individuality of Cells.
cells of the body are characterized by a certain individuality of metabolism.
They are in no case absolutely independent, yet they are in great degree
individual. The adherents of the myogenic theory of the cardiac and
gastro-intestinal movements have demonstrated the very great degree
of independent activity that is possible to the cells of muscles of even
very complex bodies. In the absence or the disease of the nerves
the muscle cells may act with a certain amount of rhythm for remarkably
long periods, but in such cases there is no adaptation of the body as a
unit to the environment as a unit. The heart kept beating without
nerves, nourished by warm, defibrinated blood, may preserve its rhythm
unchanged in any serious degree, but there can be no change in its force
or rhythm in answer to the demands of active structures elsewhere in the
body, nor does any fatigue of its own initiate vascular changes looking
to its relief. The other parts of the body display analogous phenomena.
Every cell and tissue leads its own individual life, and each influences
and is influenced by almost every other organ of the body for the common
Nutritional Influence of Nerve Impulses.
as the cells of the body are adapted to the receipt of these streams of
nerve impulses, they are not long able to maintain any degree of efficiency
after the section of their nerves. The nutritional condition of almost
all of the body tissues is dependent upon the maintenance of its normal
relations with the central nervous system. In olden times the effects
produced by the section of the nerves to any part of the body was thought
to be due to the lack of the “trophic” impulses which were supposed to
be carried for the most part with the sensory nerves. Later authors
doubt the existence of these impulses as such, but recognize the value
of the sensory nerves in initiating the normal stimulating impulses to
the organ concerned, and the more important protective movements.
It is probably the lack of the sensory impulses which is responsible for
the abnormal nutritive conditions observed after section of the sensory
nerves to any tissue.
the case of the ulcers sometimes found upon the feet of the person with
tabes dorsalis, for example, it is evident that it is the lack of the normal
sensory impulses which is responsible for the condition. Here the
sensory impulses aroused by slight injuries to the feet do not attract
attention until the wound has become infected and the deeper tissues are
seriously involved. Not only is it true that consciousness is not
affected, but it is also true that the vascular reactions in answer to
the variations of heat and cold and muscular effort either fail or become
very inefficient in the absence of the normal sensory impulses from any
organ. The presence of the trophic nerves has not been demonstrated,
nor have the problems which occasioned their suggestion been satisfactorily
solved. However these facts may be interpreted, it is indisputable
that the section or disease of the sensory nerves to any part of the body
result s in its malnutrition and disease.
The Physiological Basis of Education.
efferent impulses depend ultimately upon afferent impulses. Even
the impulses called volitional are derived from sensory impulses which
may have been a long time retained within the nerve cells. The character
of the metabolism of the nucron is somewhat modified by demands made upon
it,--every time that a neuron is affected in any manner its powers of reacting
to its environment are affected. Under normal conditions, whatever
stimulus reaches a neuron lowers its liminal value. Under abnormal
conditions, the liminal value may be increased, or it may be lowered in
an abnormal degree.
effect produced upon the neurons by education is simply a lowering of the
liminal values of the areas affected. If the education be wisely
planned, the neurons are developed in a coordinated manner, not any one
system at the expense of another; and the systems which associate the different
cortical areas are not neglected. In the unwise systems of education
of children, and in the unwise methods adopted by some physicians for the
mental treatment of patients, the neurons of certain systems are developed
at the expense of a lack of development of others. The result of
such a procedure is not all that might be desired in the way of mental
or physical development.
phenomena of memory depend upon the fact that the activity of a neuron
or a neuron system lowers its liminal value. Because of the phenomena
associated with memory, the individual of today is practically identical
with the individual of the past. The neurons are the structures which
retain the records of past experience, and they do this by means of the
changes in their metabolism resulting from their activity.
The Basal Ganglia.
basal ganglia coordinate the emotional reactions. These are a needful
and essential part of life, a source of strength and of normal pleasure
in both work and recreation. The normal activity of the nerve centers
depends upon their normal relationship with the other neuron systems.
The irrational methods of education which eliminate the consideration of
these centers fails in its most important ends. Many a nervous collapse
is due primarily to the effort to compel a conduct of life based upon the
action of the cortical neurons alone.
The Body a Unit.
the body is to act as a unit, the neuron systems concerned in every reaction
must be developed in equivalent degree. This is a problem for both
educator and physician, it is true, but it is the failure of the educator
which sends the abnormal nervous systems to the physician. It is
here, again, that the physician fails in his duty if he neglect the instruction
of his patient in the rules of hygienic living.
Dorsalis, in “Mental and Nervous Diseases” by Church and Peterson.
of the Brain, by Jacques Loeb.