Studies in the Osteopathic
The Physiology of Consciousness:
Louisa Burns, M.S., D.O., D.Sc.O.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CORTICAL COORDINATIONS.
The Function of the Cortex
The great value of the cortical coordinations lies
in the fact that the exceptional occurrences may be met by appropriate
answers. The reactions which occur as the result of racial inheritances
and developmental processes can take no account of the exceptional cases.
The projection of the sensory and motor impulses upon the widespread cortical
area, with the infinitely complex fibers and tracts which relate its every
part, either directly or indirectly, to every other part, makes it possible
for those complex coordinations to occur which are needful for the determination
of an efficient reply to the exceptional cases.
By means of the activities of the intermediate areas,
with the inhibitions which become possible through the presence of the
complex structure of the cortex and the manifold inter-neuronic connections,
the factors of any experience may be dissociated, and the elements of that
experience associated with other elements of other experiences, and so
on. Thus, the impulses associated with any given series of experiences
may serve as a basis upon which may be built other experiences, which,
though never present in the history of the individual, may serve him as
sources of information, and may modify his reactions as efficiently as
if they had been actual experiences.
This power of dissociating and recombining the elements
of actual experiences into new and imaginary experiences, which may act
as determining forces in answering the exceptional demands, is the function
of the cortical areas.
The Physiological Basis of Reason
The simplest form of coordination is that found in
the action of the centers in the spinal cod, and the homologous centers
of the medulla, pons and midbrain. In these centers the nerve cells act
according to the impulses reaching them; (a) from the sensory fibers of
the same and adjacent spinal segments, (b) from association cells of the
same and adjacent spinal segments, (c) from higher nerve centers. The manner
of reaction of the spinal centers is affected also by the physiological
condition of the cells themselves.
The various visceral centers of the medulla and pons
exemplify the next higher group of coordinating neurons. These centers
receive impulses from the sensory neurons of the second order, the nucleus
gracilis and nucleus cuneatus, the nuclei of the cranial sensory nerves,
and from the higher centers. These centers—heart, respiratory, vaso-motor,
etc.—are affected also by the character of the blood circulating through
them. The higher development, the more elaborate functioning of the bulbar
and pontine centers, depends upon this, that they coordinate the impulses
governing a very large part of the body.
The different centers of the basal ganglia display
a still more elaborate form of oordination. In these ganglia the coordination
depends upon the receipt by them of the impulses from ssensory neurons
of higher than second orders. In these ganglia the results of the past
experiences of the race have affected the relations of the neurons concerned
in such a manner that the very appearance of danger in the environment
initiates the motor impulses expressive of what in our own consciousness
is called fear or anger. In the same way, the receiving by these centers
of the impulses of bodily well-being, of comfortable environmental factors,
initiates the discharge by these centers of the motor impulses which express
what we call pleasure or satisfaction. This relationship between the environmental
factors and the condition of the body has been established through ages
of experiences. For those ancestors whose coordinating centers were so
constructed as to secure the manifestations of fear in the presence of
danger beyond the powers of resistance, or the manifestations of anger
and the fighting reactions in the presence of danger which might result
in victorious combat, were those whose descendants, transmitting that cause
of strength, were most numerous and most ready to make use of that strength
for the perpetuation of their characteristics.
The activity of the centers concerned in the instinctive
or emotional reactions, as they are variously called, depends upon the
inheritance of those structural qualifications which have, in the history
of the race, been found to be beneficial. While there is no reason to believe
that there is any inheritance of those characteristics which result from
the life history of the individual, there is great reason for the belief
that there is an inheritance of those qualities which modify the reaction
of the individual; in other words, the history itself is not a matter of
inheritance, but the qualities which enable the individual to modify his
history are inherited. In this sense, then, the ganglia in which are coordinated
the emotional reactions retain a racial memory; that is, the manner of
the ultimate motor impulses form these ganglia depends upon: (a) the sensory
impulses, (b) the impulses from higher centers, mostly inhibitory, (c)
the physiological conditions of the neurons concerned, (d) the racial memories
as laid down in structural and physiological relationships.
Relations of Centers
The higher centers differ from the lower in the
increasing complexity of the reactions which are coordinated by them, and
not in the increasing complexity of the impulses reaching them. The spinal
centers are affected by impulses from the sensory nerves of the same and
adjoining segments, and also by the impulses reaching them from the higher
centers. The higher centers are themselves affected by impulses from over
all the body; so the spinal centers may be affected indirectly by impulses
from the entire body. Thus, ultimately, the origins of the impulses affecting
the spinal centers are as varied and as complex as are the origins of the
impulses affecting the cortical centers. But the reactions controlled by
the spinal centers are comparatively simple, while the reactions controlled
by the ganglionar centers and the cortical centers of the cerebrum are
almost of infinite variety.
The projection of the sensory impulses upon the cerebral
cortex is associated with the development of the overflow areas. The visual
area occupies the lingual and cuneate gyri, the auditory area occupies
the first and perhaps part of the second temporal lobe, the somesthetic
area occupies the postcentral gyrus, the olfactory area spreads over the
inferior aspect of the brain, involving a number of cortical areas, and
the motor area occupies the precentral gyrus.
Probably in part during the development of the centers
just enumerated, but chiefly since their fixed representation upon the
cortex, there have been developed certain other areas in their immediate
neighborhood. The primary sensory and motor areas lie upon the cortex like
islands. Not one is continuous with any other, except the primary motor
with the somesthetic areas. Thus, between the primary areas lie areas which
seem, in animals, to have no known function.
The term “overflow area” should suggest the picture
of nerve impulses reaching the primary area and flowing over into the adjacent
cortical regions. Since the areas neighboring upon any primary sensory
area are of greater extent than the primary area itself, it is evident
that the possibilities of association processes are increased by the presence
of the overflows. There are also certain peculiarities of the cell structure
of the overflow areas which increase their capacity for associating and
for holding in escrow the effects of the stimulations reaching the primary
With the development of the overflow areas associated
with the primary sense areas, the retention of the effects of the stimulation
of certain neuron groups is possible. The physiological effect of the stimulation
of any neuron or neuron group is the lowering of the liminal value of that
neuron or neuron group. The stimulation of any neuron causes the initiation
of a cellulipetal impulse over the axon of that neuron, and this impulse
affects the neurons with which the axon forms synapses. If the axon forms
synapses with a number of neurons, that one will be affected most which
has the lowest liminal value. Thus, the stimulation of several neurons
in series is associated with a lowering liminal value of the series, and
the later stimulation of any neuron in that series is apt to cause the
stimulation of the other neurons of the series. This is the physiological
basis of memory. The question as to whether anything is ever forgotten,
whether memories are stored in some “sub-conscious” reservoir, is puerile.
The physiological condition of the neurons concerned is changed, but whether
it is possible for the effect thus produced to be completely lost or not
is something beyond the human power to determine. Are the fog drops lost
when the sun shines brightly? Are the effects of the waves on the sand
lost when the tide flows over them? In a philosophical sense nothing is
lost; the fog of this morning, the last year’s bird song, the color of
yesterday’s sunset, have place today in the effects of their past existence.
In such a sense memories are existent, and in none other. As experiences
affect the physiological conditions of neurons, the effects of all experiences
are, in a certain sense, not lost during life. But it seems scarcely probable
that the experiences of a lifetime should remain capable of stimulating
the neurons concerned in affecting consciousness during a lifetime. Yet
it is not possible to determine what experiences are completely lost and
what are merely not recalled.
Interpretation of Experiences
By means of the overflow areas the elements of experiences
are stored, and by the repeated activities of the neurons of these cortical
areas elements may be dissociated and recombined, and thus new images may
be produced in consciousness. These new images, the result of the dissociation
and recombination of elements of past experiences, may be recognized as
being part of actual experiences, at times, and under slightly abnormal
conditions. The power to dissociate and recombine is a necessary element
in the processes underlying intellectual life. Imbeciles fail in this power.
The wonderful memory of imbeciles is due to this lack of dissociation.
The increased power of dissociation and recombination is found among people
of increased imagination When this power is associated with a high degree
of functional activity on the part of the posterior intermediate area,
such persons are those of great mentality.
The development of the overflow areas precedes the
development of the intermediate areas. By means of the activities of the
intermediate areas, the memories, the dissociated ideas, and the abstractions
resulting from the dissociations of the elements of past experiences are
combined into the higher conclusions, the abstract judgments, the classification
of the fats and the interpretation of things as perceived in the light
of many relationships. By the activities of the intermediate areas hypotheses
are formed, deductions are drawn, the relationships of environmental factors
are perceived in their wider aspects, and the relation of the individual
to his fellowman is decided upon in the light of the wisdom and understanding
resulting from the activities of all parts of the cortex.
Anterior Intermediate Areas
The anterior intermediate area is that last developed,
so far as we are now able to determine. It seems, then, that at present
the most complex activity of the cortical centers is that concerned in
the proper correlation of the individual to his environment. The whole
value of all the processes concerned in consciousness is to modify man’s
behavior in the midst of the world in which he is placed.
The Right Hemisphere
The intermediate areas of the right hemisphere and
parts of the left hemisphere have not yet become developed, so far as our
present knowledge goes. What psychological conclusions may be drawn from
the lack of function of these areas we are not now in a position to say.
Speculation is easy and safe, since there is no way to demonstrate the
falsity of any speculations concerning things which are not known.
Phylogeny of Intelligence
It is impossible to describe the phylogeny of intellectual
attainments in any exact manner, since our accounts of the racial development
are extremely imperfect. The first chapters are lost, and we do not even
know how many are lost. The paleolithic man had fire, implements of stone,
and a certain degree of skill in forming these implements. Cities have
been uncovered concerning which the inhabitants of the region have no knowledge,
and beneath these, built upon ruins imbedded in the slow drifting of the
dust, are found other cities, and others still deeper, and these, even,
have shown the use of metals, and the dishes and implements found show
much skill and artistic merit in form and workmanship. The Egyptians had
attained a high degree of civilization before they built the pyramids,
and their scientific attainments were considerable, at least in physics
and astronomy. So, in history, the first chapters of intellectual development
In the study of the racial development of the human
brain one difficulty is met which is perfectly avoidable. Anthropologists
measure the skulls of prehistoric peoples with much accuracy from the outside.
But these measurements do not indicate the size or shape of the brain with
any accuracy at all. If the skulls found could be measured from the inside,
or, better, of casts were made of the inside of each skull, our knowledge
of the development of the brain during racial progress would be increased.
The skulls vary in thickness of the bone and in the size of the various
sinuses. These variations are sufficient, in skulls of present peoples,
to invalidate any but the most crude conclusions concerning brain development.
It may safely be concluded, then, that the same conditions are met in the
Significance of Myths
In myths and traditions some inkling of the beginning
of intellectual development may be found. The truth of the conclusions
drawn from the study of myths seems fairly apparent when the myths of distant
countries and of races not known to be related are compared. They are found
to display very marked resemblances, and these resemblances include the
factors which appear to be most significant in explaining, or at least
in illustrating, the phylogenetic development in function of the intermediate
Visual images seem to be considered, for the most
part, as commonplace; auditory images are given more attention. The fact
that the projection of auditory images upon the cortex followed the projection
of the visual images is of interest in this connection. The auditory radiations
become medullated at a later time than the optic radiations also. Thus,
it is probable that the auditory overflow is of later development, both
phylogenetically and ontogenetically, than the visual overflow. Savages
dream of sights, but rarely of sounds, and they attribute greater significance
to the things heard in dreams than they do to things seen.
The great significance attached to the naming of
things is of interest in this connection. The naming of objects, of ideas,
the exact expression of things seen, and thought, and felt in language,
is one of the most important factors in education to this day. In myths
the relationship is recognized. The monster named was the monster conquered,
the fairy named was made to serve, the good quality named was compelled
to wait and serve.
The conquering of evil spirits, or monsters, or powers
of malicious intent by means of cunning is another idea which is found
among myths. The conquering of good spirits is less often found. In these
is found the characteristic of humanity to associate the ideas of the individual
with what is good, and to attribute to the forces which impeded him malevolent
qualities. The individual is the center of his own universe; the recognition
of that fact may be delayed, but the reactions based upon any other supposition
meet with disaster. This characteristic of egoism is naively displayed
in myths of all races.
Myths of somewhat later origin show mankind acting
together against a common foe. The very oldest myths show no common humanity,
but only individual triumphs. The hero, acting and saving his race or family,
appears in the myths not of the most ancient. Thus, the unification of
the family and of the race begins before the age of history, but at a later
time than the recognition of personal bravery, or cunning in the conquering
of personal foes.
No myths, have those of evidently comparatively modern times, portray
individuals working together for a common end. Rarely a hero may compel
his people, but the single hero is the essential characteristic of these
Loyalty to ideals is never found; a doglike, habitual
sort of fidelity to a person, or obedience to a command, may be found,
Myths are characterized by personifications. The
individual is unable to attribute qualities to inanimate objects; he simply
fails to see any reason for not recognizing the qualities he sees. If the
storm clouds act angry, they are angry. Why not? If the waves glisten like
eyes, they are the eyes of a spirit. Why not? If the grain waves like beseeching
arms, it is arms beseeching. Why not? Nowadays we see resemblances, and
personification is a figure of speech; in myths there is no figure of speech;
the things were seen as persons and are so described; the things were heard
as speaking, and are so described. The whole saying is naïve and simple,
like a child’s tale.
The Ontogeny of Intelligence
It is true in part that the ontogeny of mental development
repeats the phylogeny. The naïve and simple explanation of the various
natural events of the days of mythology belong to the childhood of the
race. The myths are essentially childlike, though probably they could not
be duplicated by the child mind of today; yet the stories told by children
now resemble the myths in considerable degree. The explanations of the
thunder, the appearance, of the stars at night, the falling of the rain,
all these are given by children with the same naïve simplicity, the
same ideas of personality and ethics, the same superficial views of cause
and effect, that characterize the myths of all races The peculiar stumbling
upon truths afterward determined by scientific investigations belong to
the childhood of the race, to the young children of today, and to those
people of all races sometimes who are included under the class genius.
Such stumbling and unbased coincidences are often cited as indicative of
some supernatural source of knowledge possessed by children and persons
of the genius type; but if the unbased statements made of such persons
the world over should be placed in one list, and the facts as later determined
to be true should be placed in another, it seems that the laws of coincidence
would govern the situation completely. Those who assume the probability
of some source of knowledge possessed by children, geniuses and some others
use only those occurrences which appear to show the display of this unbased
knowledge, but disregard the millions of unverified statements.
Children and the men of the childhood of the race
alike recognized a certain value in dreams. The manner in which this fallacy
arises is this: The repetition of occurrences is associated with their
recognition as a memory. The occurrences which are not repeated are not
remembered. The dreams which are not followed by any occurrences which
bring them into consciousness again are forgotten, while the dream which
is followed by some occurrence which tends to bring the dream again into
consciousness is remembered vividly Thus, the dreams which come true are
remembered, while those which fail to come true are forgotten. So it is
easy to see why the belief in dreams should be so unfailing a characteristic
of myths, of savage peoples and of children. Thus, dreams were held to
be expressive of the intentions of some personality beyond waking hours.
The forms of clouds and waves, the sounds of wind and falling water, the
flying of birds and bees, all natural occurrences which displayed no visible
cause, were taken as other expressions of the will and the desires of the
unseen. Thus arose the custom of divination in its various forms. This
custom also has its place in children’s lives when they act without too
exact oversight by pedagogical teacher or parents.
Such habits of thought are to be considered as the
result of the activity of the overflow areas in the absence of very marked
function of the intermediate areas. Impulses reaching the primary sense
areas were coordinated in the overflow areas; the simplest possible significance
was attached to things seen, heard, etc., and the interpretations thus
rendered were accepted. The attainment of a really very high scientific
and artistic merit is not beyond the possibilities of the activities of
the overflow areas. The interpretation of facts is possible to the overflow
areas, but the criticism of the interpretation is due to the activities
of the intermediate areas.
The differences between the civilization of the ancient
races and the civilization of modern times lies in the action of the intermediate
areas. By the activities of the overflow areas abstractions were made and
were personified, facts were recognized, conclusions were based upon the
facts, but the conclusions were not subjected to any but the most superficial
scrutiny. If any interpretation of a fact was offered, it was accepted,
apparently, according to the rank of the person who offered it. Even now
most of us find it difficult to judge any interpretation of observed facts
without reference to the personality of the one who first offered it. It
is evidence of the functional activity of the intermediate areas that one
is able to view an interpretation of facts, after having verified the facts
in the light of evidence, without referring to the personality of the inventory,
and without referring to the prejudices or the feelings associated with
the subject matter.
The development of the coordinations in the individual
must repeat in part the development of the cortical coordinations of the
It is to be noticed that the evolution of the cortical
area has apparently progressed from the posterior toward the anterior part
of the hemispheres; or, rather, that the interposition of the anterior
and more lately developed centers pushed the earlier centers posteriorly.
The olfactory cortex first, then the visual, then the auditory, then the
somesthetic areas, all preceded the development of the overflow areas,
as the development of the overflows preceded the development of the intermediate
areas. The progress of psychical development in any individual probably
follows the same path. The commonly-accepted view is that the psychical
ideas associated with self are first appreciated, then at a later time
the ideas of things distant. It seems very improbable that this is true.
The olfactory cortex does not seem to have any overflow area, and the olfactory
impulses do not seem to be associated with any reactions apparently conscious
for quite a long time. It is true that reflexes may be associated with
tastes and smells at a comparatively early time. Visual images are apparently
represented first in consciousness, then auditory, then the common sensations.
Volitional movements are found latest developed. Reflex actions are present
from the day of birth, and these may be associated with sensory stimulation,
but these reflexes are not indicative of cortical activities.
The activity of the primary sense areas is associated
in consciousness with primary sensations, unassociated with past experiences,
uninterpreted in any way, and not localized in relation either to the body
itself or to any external condition. Probably this sensation is not to
be experienced by any adult human being except under extremely abnormal
conditions, and then it would not be possible to recognize the condition,
since the very possibility of recognizing the experience necessitates the
existence of associational processes.
The development of the overflow areas depends upon
the receipt of impulses from the primary sensory areas. The activity of
these areas is associated in consciousness with the recognition of past
experiences, the significance of the sensory impulses received, and through
the neuron groups relating the sensory overflow areas to one another, the
recognition of objects as being perceived by more than one sense. The identity
of the thing which is seen with the thing which is heard, or felt, or tasted
becomes recognized in consciousness through the activity of these areas.
The mentality underlying the age of myths and early childhood depends upon
the development of the overflow, but probably not the intermediate areas
of the cortex.
Since the development of the overflow areas depends
upon the development of the primary sense areas, and since the development
of the intermediate areas depends upon the activity of the overflow areas,
it is evident that incoming sensory impulses make the foundation upon which
the faculties resulting from the development of the intermediate areas
can be built. During the development of the child mind the accumulation
of facts is a matter of greatest importance. In the adult, taking up any
new line of work, the accumulation of facts is the matter of the first
consideration. In caring for those who are sick or who suffer from the
psychoses it may be advantageous to develop new relationships among the
cortical centers by adding new facts to the memories stored in the cortical
Upon a basis of observations is built the superstructure of what are
commonly called the higher faculties. These observations are most efficient
if they include the activities of as many primary sense areas as possible,
and if they are related to as many motor impulses as possible.
Children should, then, be taught to see things from
as many viewpoints as possible, and to interpret the things seen in action
and in speech—spoken, written, picture language, and by modeling, if possible.
The knowledge of the surrounding country which is gained by walking around
over it, by making maps, by looking over the valleys from the hilltops,
and by seeing it from the standpoint of the botanist, geologist, historian,
artist, farmer, and in the eyes of as many other people as possible, makes
the best possible foundation for the development of individual activity
in whatever line the child’s characteristics lead him.
The Wider Environment
In order that a solid foundation of these primary
sensory images and memories may be laid, it is best that the environment
shall not be too narrow. Probably with a certain amount of guidance a valley
among high mountains may serve as a wide enough field for human observation;
but this narrow valley is not usually the home of either teachers or parents
capable of giving such guidance. The physical outlook should be wide enough
to include the possibilities of seeing things from many standpoints, and
it should include in its limits enough people of various characteristics
and of enough varying outlooks to make the different points of view possible.
This increasing of the environment depends very largely upon the manner
in which the child’s life is circumscribed by his elders. Children of wealth,
traveling with tutors, have probably narrower limits of contact with the
world than the mountaineer, who travels at will over his little valley.
The position of people who are limited in possibilities
by limitations of environment becomes extremely pitiable when they become
sick, or placed out of the conditions to which they are accustomed. The
person whose outlook has been broadened has at his disposal many memories
and associative possibilities by means of which he may adapt himself to
new conditions; but the narrow mentality, associated with narrow environment,
is unable to adapt the individual to new surroundings without much suffering
and labor. This is as true of those who do not employ the possibilities
of education as it is of those to whom education is denied. The wealthy
person whose life processes follow a narrow pathway is as greatly injured,
and cramped, and bound in by his habits as is the ignorant, and poverty-stricken,
and helpless mountaineer. The child whose every thought and observation
have been subjected to the critical scrutiny of his elders is not less
limited in his environment than the gamin who lives by his wits in the
slums. Both are equally cramped by environmental limitations, both grow
into persons of limited possibilities, of narrow outlook, of undeveloped
It is the duty of every physician to recognize the
conditions needful for normal educational factors, and to use whatever
influence he has in helping parents and teachers to provide these things
for growing childhood. For the narrow grown person the physician can do
much also. People have enough powers lying latent to provide for increased
possibilities of development through all their lives, and new sensory impulses
may be employed in the development of new association processes as long
as one lives.
Development of the Intermediate Areas
The development of the overflow areas is associated
with the memories and with simple interpretations. The development of the
intermediate area of the parietal lobe brings the possibility of the classification
of environmental facts and of the appreciation of external relationships.
The later development of the anterior area brings the possibility of coordinating
the facts in regard to the place of the individual himself. It is of no
use to appeal to the child’s ideas concerning his proper place among other
children, or among the other members of his family; as well might one ask
a blind man to criticize a painting. The child has no self-brain until
about the age of puberty. Then he attains a rather absurd and excessive
idea of himself in relation to his fellows; but the development of the
neurons of this area in relationship with the development of the neurons
of the posterior intermediate area is soon associated with the decrease
of the absurdities.
In education, the thing to do is to place the child
in such a position that the habits are formed which place him right in
the world, so far as manners are concerned. If he has the basis of a series
of right habits, the conservatism of habit will secure him a good place
to start from in his determination of his own place in the midst of things.
He should start out with the habits of manner, and thinking, and use of
himself which are customary among the people among whom he lives, then
whatever further place he has will depend upon his individual reaction
to his individual environment.
Education begins with the beginning of life. The
transmission of nerve impulses from one nerve cell to another causes a
lowering of the liminal value of the nerve cells concerned. The transmission
of nerve impulses through any neuron series lowers the liminal value of
that series. The performance of any reaction causes that reaction to be
more easily performed at a later time. Every time any reaction occurs,
that reaction becomes easier. Upon this physiological fact depends all
of education. This is the reason for repetition in education. The liminal
values of the neurons concerned is lowered until the reaction repeated
becomes habitual. The teaching of little children can include practically
nothing but the formation of right habits.
The development of the habit of obedience is one
which many parents insist upon. Doubtless many parents develop this virtue
too greatly in their children, since too implicit obedience may lead to
personal weakness in later years. But a sensible obedience is a thing which
is natural to most children, unless they are spoiled by being constantly
commanded to do unpleasant things. To teach obedience is usually unnecessary,
for it is natural for a child to obey without question, under ordinary
circumstances. The child who has become disobedient is not usually well
trained to obedience by harshness. One of the best ways to deal with such
children is that through repetition. He is told to do the thing which he
would do anyway, but he is not compelled to do that which he dislikes.
When everything he wishes to do is preceded by authoritative direction,
he finds himself unable to do that which he wishes without obeying. The
habit of obedience is soon secured; then rather gradually a certain amount
of initiative may be permitted, and he may be told to do things which he
might not find agreeable. If he obeys, well and good; if he does not obey,
the dose must be repeated; he must be told to do everything which he wishes
to do, without exception, until the habit of obedience is established again.
A fault of earlier times, which does not exist to
so great an extent nowadays, is the habit of maintaining parental subjection
for too long a time. In olden times children whose intermediate areas were
becoming developed were kept in the most implicit subordination. The impulses
aroused by environmental changes were transmitted into motor impulses,
not as the result of the activities of the child’s own brain, but as he
interpreted the probable decisions of his elders. During the last century
it was not rare for the children of the most worthy parents, children of
the most admirable training according to the opinions of the times, to
grow into the most wicked reprobates. The maintenance of too great subjection
after the intermediate areas begin to become developed is associated with
the presence of antagonistic series of impulses due to the activities of
these areas. The ultimate reaction is, for a time, that due to the predominant
influence of the parental teachings, but with these are associated the
antagonistic effects of the impulses concerned in the appreciation of the
youth’s own thought. The reactions chosen are thus permitted to act upon
the motor overflow areas; the liminal value of the neuron systems concerned
in the reactions exactly antagonistic to all his teachings is lowered day
by day, until finally the time comes when he is apt to find the neuron
systems concerned in the expression of his own opinions and desires more
efficient than the steadily-weakening influence of the teachings of his
childhood, and he is apt to follow every impulse against which his early
teaching was directed.
The pendulum has swung too far in the other direction
now, in some families. The children are thrown upon their own responsibility
before the overflow or intermediate areas are capable of performing any
duties of association or coordination. A number of avoidable errors is
thus made a regrettable part of the child’s experience.
Development of Character
The rational method is that indicated by the physiological
development of the cortical areas. The child should not lose his tendency
to obedience; if this does occur through wrong training, he should again
be accustomed to the habit. This is done, as is given in another section,
by telling him to do everything which he wishes to do, without exception.
Let him not be able to find anything which he wishes to do, which he has
not already been told to do. The habit of obedience is bound to follow,
and this without any of the furious storms which usually are associated
with the endeavor to compel an unwilling obedience in an obstinate, spoiled
child. Such storms are harmful beyond measure, and usually the child is
the real victor in the contest.
Obedience should be absolute during the earlier years.
With the beginning of evidences of reasoning, the endeavor should be made
to let him use this power gradually, and, without his recognizing the fact,
let him do practically the same things he has been doing obediently from
the effects of the activities of his own brain. The environmental changes
thus initiate appropriate reactions directly, the liminal value of the
neurons concerned in rational and well-chosen reactions become progressively
lower, and the rational actions become fixed in the physiological condition
of the cortical neurons—that is, become an integral part of his character.
No antagonistic impulses are thus permitted to affect the motor overflow,
since he has been led to choose the rational reaction himself, and no inhibitory
neuron systems enter into the situation at all.
Obstinacy in children and in older people is the
condition associated with the overactivity of the neurons of inhibition.
It is probable that the inverted pyramids of Martinotti are the neurons
most concerned in this reaction. Increased stimulation of the neuron series
concerned stimulates the inhibitory cells all the more. The endeavor to
cause obedience in the obstinate child or to limit certain crimes among
grown people by the use of excessive punishments is productive of harin.
The attempt should be made to secure the reaction desired without the intermediation
of the inhibitory neurons. This is done by giving instruction to children
while their muscles are relaxed, as after they are in bed at night sleepy
and tired, or at any time when they are found to be “biddable” and well.
No attempt at discipline or instruction should ever be made when a child
is sick, or overtired, or hungry.
Development of Personality
After puberty, when the anterior intermediate areas
have become developed, the personality of the individual becomes fairly
well fixed. The activities of the various intermediate areas relate his
activities to the conditions of his environment and to the activities of
his fellowman. The activities of the overflow areas constantly bring memories
of the past events of his own life to be associated with present sensory
impulses; the overflow areas also interpret the things perceived by present
experiences. The activities of the intermediate areas interpret, and criticize,
and modify, and control the reactions coordinated by the ganglionar centers.
Deciding the propriety of any emotional reaction, he permits that emotional
reaction full play, as previously decided upon. Thus life has in its emotional
characteristics the force associated with the reactions controlled by the
basic instinct and emotional states, but has none of the destructiveness
due to the unbalanced activities of the ganglionar centers
Any discussion as to the possibility of the inheritance
of acquired characteristics is beyond the purpose of this paragraph. It
is enough to say that the facts seem to indicate either the possibility
of acquired racial characteristics, or that the forces of variations, survivals,
deaths and choice act in practically the same manner in the perpetuation
of certain characteristics of cerebral development. Since the inheritance
of visible structural characteristics is practically proved beyond question,
it may probably be granted that there is an inheritance of those structures
which are not visible.
The inheritance of the structural relationships which
underlie the functional relationships of the neurons is quite as much a
certainty as is the inheritance of a certain form of lip or of chin, or
of any other feature. The inheritance of the neuron groupings which underlie
the consciousness of certain facts is thus assured. The inheritance of
certain paths through the central nervous system, by means of which certain
environmental changes are easily and quickly followed by certain motor
reactions, is also a matter which may be granted This inheritance is brought
about, no doubt, by the same evolutionary forces, whatever they may be,
which have produced the present development of the other parts of the body.
When it occurs that any sensory impulses arouse an
immediate motor reaction which includes both visceral and somatic structures,
a sense of emotional states arises in consciousness. This is due to the
persistence of the primitive racial characteristics. Whenever any given
association process is concerned in the coordination of certain facts,
as of axioms, or of what are called “higher” truths, the neuron systems
concerned are those whose liminal value is the lower because of the racial
experiences. Thus it is found that such truths are greeted in consciousness
with a sense of acquaintance, of pleasure or distaste.
In the progress of human development it has long
been noticed that the study of the most distant objects, the stars, was
the first scientific attainment of the race. This is true, to a certain
extent, of all races. Many of the savage races are exceptions to the rule.
Later the studies included subjects nearer at hand.
In artistic history it is found that the development of painting and
sculpture preceded the development of music.
In dreams, especially among savages, the auditory
images are much less distinct than are visual images. Myths show a constant
tendency to attribute to auditory hallucinations a mystic force, while
visual hallucinations usually are dismissed as dreams.
All of these facts are probably due to the fact that
the auditory overflow becomes developed at a later time than the visual.
In the processes of the development of the cortical
coordinations the functions of the overflow and intermediate areas follow
a long way after the development of the primary areas. The progress of
the race in civilization is indicative of the comparative slowness with
which the attainment of anything like perfect functioning of the intermediate
areas occurs. The steps in the development of the overflows follow in the
order of the development of the primary areas with which they are associated
and the development of the intermediate areas follows the same steps also.
Since the overflow areas for the olfactory and gustatory impulses are not
recognized, it is evident that we can not determine whether the same laws
are concerned in these sense as in the others or not. Of the senses whose
relationships are known, at least in part, the laws a given seem to be
Phylogeny of Visual Coordinations
The visual area is developed first, and the visual
overflow is concerned in the coordination of the visual images before the
auditory areas are developed in anything like the same degree. This is
shown in many ways; the characteristics of the older myths, the development
of the visual ideas in the child, the comparative development of the visual
functions in feeble-minded children, the facts of the phylogenetic development
of the cortex, all show the greater age of the cortical projection of visual
Phylogeny of the Auditory Coordinations
The auditory impulses follow the visual, and the
development of the primary motor area of the cortex appears to become efficient
at about the same time. The auditory overflow area is continuous with the
visual overflow area, and the development of the area intermediate between
the two is completed at a somewhat later time. The comparative youth of
the auditory projection upon the cortex is associated with the facts of
mythology, of the development of painting, sculpture, or architecture,
all of which depend upon the visual cortex. In the average child, also,
the sense of music is developed at a later time than is the sense of color
Phylogeny of the Somesthetic Coordinations
The significance of things heard is developed at an earlier time than
the significance of things felt, or of things as resistant to muscular
The projection upon the cortex of the common body
sensation is a matter of later development. Among savage races and among
those people who have neither the time nor the energy to attend to any
but the merest necessities of life, the physical senses are of great importance
in modifying the daily reactions, but not in adding to conscious knowledge
in great degree. This condition, present now among the very poor and among
savages who live with much difficulty, is associated with no particular
attention to the body sensations, except as pain impulses compel a certain
degree of attention. There is some reason to believe that these people
do not suffer so great pain under the exigencies of life as people of higher
nervous development do. This may be, perhaps, due to the fact that individuals
who do suffer die off rather early in life among those people, while only
those who feel comparatively little pain endure existence for a certain
time. Among civilized people, on the other hand, every effort is made to
perpetuate the physically unfit.
The beginning of the development of the common sensory
overflows and of the neighboring intermediate areas seems to be associated,
first, with a tendency to the exaggeration of these sensations, and then
with a tendency to their limitation in consciousness.
Thus, among savages of all races and among the primitive
people there is found the care of the body which almost amounts to worship.
This tendency is associated, later, with the decoration of the body in
ways which add to the sensory stimulation and to the high esteem in which
the body itself is held. The process of tattooing illustrates this condition.
The painful process occupies many weeks, perhaps many months and years,
and yet it is done with much pleasure. The wearing of earrings and nose
rings, the slitting of the lips and cheeks for the sake of wearing jewelry
and various decorations, the mutilation of sensitive parts of the body,
with associated decorations or without these, all indicate the low pain
threshold and the reactions characteristic of the cortex in which the common
sensory areas were being developed.
Later the common sensations became sufficiently developed
to fail to arouse any of these incoordinated and injurious reactions. During
the developmental period of any area the attainment of function is first
associated with the performance of exaggerated function, then occurs the
period of lessened function with increased association impulses, then the
times of completed associations, with the associated consciousness of the
sensory images and the employment of these sensations in the control of
the daily life processes. In the development of the cortical areas for
the common sensations the period of comparative inactivity is associated
with a tendency to “mortify the flesh.” The people of the middle ages did
this, and to this day the association of extreme goodness with bodily pain
is present in the minds of most people.
That great merit is to be attained by suffering alone
is one of the ideas of the primitive mind, and it depends upon the developmental
processes as they occur in ontogenetic as well as phylogenetic development.
Ontogeny of Sensory Coordinations
Children pass first through a naïve and childish
stage of bodily vanity, in which, with no apparent self-consciousness,
they decorate themselves with bits of bright ribbon and feathers in a savage
and outlandish manner. This is usually followed, in most children, by a
period of self-depreciation and especially of bodily inattention. The repugnance
to the bath of this period is as pronounced as in the days of the early
martyrs. Probably something of the same reason lies at the base of both
Later the fuller development of the common sensory
overflows and the associated development of the anterior intermediate area
is associated with the beginning of the extremely egotistical stage of
consciousness. The body is then again a thing to be cherished and cared
for, this time in the light of the most intense self-consciousness. This
stage occurs at about the age of puberty, and the egotism of that period
is due to the development of the anterior association areas, together with
the initiation in the lower centers of those sensory impulses associated
with the increased function of the sexual organs and the circulatory changes
associated with this increased development.
With the attainment of the adult life the normal
individual undergoes the changes in his sense of personality which are
necessarily associated with the development of the coordination of impulses
from other parts of the cortex with the anterior association areas. Also,
the changes in neuronic function initiated by varying environmental conditions
cause the activities of the anterior association areas to become modified
in accordance with the greater range of associational impulses; thus the
reactions become saner and the consciousness of personality assumes something
like a rational development.
Present View of Sensory Impulses
At the present time, among the more highly-educated
and civilized peoples, the care of the body assumes a fairly just importance
in the conduct of life. The body, as a sort of complex machine, able to
attend to the duties laid upon it by the activities of the cortical neurons,
is beginning to be recognized as a thing to be cared for and saved, or
to be mistreated and destroyed. The older ideas of diseases as entities,
or as punishments sent for some strange purpose, are superseded by the
newer thought, that the laws of cause and effect are as immutable inside
the body as outside the body, and that the abuses of the body must be followed
ultimately by a loss of usefulness.
It is true that the body is still valued, by some races
and by some individuals of all races, as if its chief worth lay in its lack
of usefulness and in the value of the things which can be attached to it. There
are other races and other individuals among all races who still hold to the
older ideas that the body is a thing to be disregarded and kept subject to the
so-called “higher” faculties, or to be considered as non-existent. The best
thought today is that which sees in the body a thing whose chief value lies
in its efficiency, the strength of its muscles, the keenness of its vision,
the range of its environment and the perfect coordination of the cortical neurons,
upon which depend the wisdom and efficiency of the daily answers to the daily
demands of living.