THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE SYMPATHETIC NERVE.
The function of the tractus intestinalis is sensation, rhythm (persistalsis),
secretion and absorption. It has an import and export service.
"A want of individuality is the most dangerous sign in modern civilization.".
- John Stuart Mill.
It may aid in comprehending the structure and function
of the sympathetic nerve, and in concluding the discussion in regard to
its independence, to arrange in short, concise propositions a number of
observations which will show that the sympathetic nerve has a large degree
1. The independence of the sympathetic system
is impressively shown in the distinct rhythmical action of the heart for
some time after being removed from the body. This can be best demonstrated
in the frog and turtle.
2. The peristaltic and vermicular motions
of the intestines after death significantly point to the independence of
the sympathetic nervous system. The intestines of a dog will continue
in peristalsis for two hours after death if the room temperature be 100
3. The fetus has been born at or about term
without a trace of brain or cord. This shows that nutrition, growth,
secretion, absorption and circulation were conducted alone by the sympathetic-one
of the strongest demonstrations of its independence.
4. Experiment has shown that nutrition (which
means life's function) may be carried on after complete destruction of
the cerebrospinal centers.
5. Nourishment without the cerebrospinal center
would indicate that the arteries (blood-vessels) are under the control
of the sympathetic system. Goltz goes so far as to say that the tone
of the arteries is maintained by local centers situated in their own immediate
6. The manifestations of blushing, local congestions
and eruptions would tend to show that the blood acts reflexly on the vessels,
affecting the vaso-dilators or the vaso-constrictors. The white line
(followed rapidly by a red one) on stroking the skin with the finger, as
in scarlet fever, indicates that the vessels possess local nerve centers
of control. The trauma produced on the vascular centers by stroking
the skin first irritates the vaso-constrictors, and paleness results from
constriction of the vessels. The secondary result of the trauma on
the vaso-constrictor is that they are paralyzed, and then the vaso-dilators
dominate with a resulting red line.
Bernard, in 1851, was the first to show conclusively
that the sympathetics controlled the caliber of the blood-vessels.
Any one who has long practiced medicine, observing the heart and the aorta,
will be able to note that the heart itself, and the aorta, have seasons
of dilatation and contraction. For example, in many spare, neurotic
women it is common to note that the aorta has periodic times of powerful
rhythms or beatings. With the hand on the abdomen the inexperienced
announces a growing aneurism of the abdominal aorta. The aorta beats
with such tremendous force that the patient will call the physician's attention
to the phenomenon. A few hours subsequently its rhythm will be quieted
and in a normal state. This phenomenon of the excessive abdominal
aortic rhythm, or beat, is perhaps due to the excitation of the local nerve
centers which control its caliber; for I could scarcely detect the excessive
arterial beat in another portion of the body, as the wrist. At such
times the heart acts slightly differently from normal. It is a little
more noisy and appears as if it were dilated more than usual. Another
phenomenon in regard to nerve centers which control vascular tone (contraction
and dilatation) may be observed in the heart. By careful watching
of the heart of an individual, one may note that the heart changes at times
in, both its method of beat and its size.
Occasionally the heart will dilate, beat with more noise, continue so for
some hours, and then subside to its natural state. This phenomenon,
as well as that of aortic dilatation and contraction, is doubtless due
to the controlling sympathetic nerve centers localized in the substance
or immediate vicinity of the heart and aorta. The heart, like a blood-vessel
under the controlling vascular nerve centers of the sympathetic, dilates
and contracts and varies its rhythm still more within wide ranges.
I have never seen this periodic dilatation noted in any book. Practically
nothing is to be found in books concerning this peculiar periodic dilatation
and vigorous beating of the abdominal aorta.
7. The abdominal brain (the solar plexus,
the semilunar ganglion) may be viewed as a gigantic vaso-motor center for
the abdominal viscera. The dilatation and contraction of the heart
and aorta, with the periodic varying of the vigor of their rhythm (without
recognizable disease), may be referred to this king of vaso-motor centers
- the abdominal brain. In the progress of life's vascular phenomena
the abdominal brain, as a vaso-motor center, exercises very dominant and
quite independent prerogatives.
8. The dependence and independence of the
cerebrospinal and sympathetic system of nerves may be compared to the state
and federal government, or the municipal and state government. The
former run in harmony, when friction does not arise. Yet the state
lives quite a distinct individual life, quite independent from the federal
government. The life of each is dependent, however, on the other.
The internal life of each (as of the sympathetic nerve) maintains itself.
9. The sympathetic system alone would maintain
life (sensation, peristalsis, absorption, secretion), especially in each
viscus, but the cerebrospinal system coordinates the various viscera as
a whole into a definite purpose or plan. The cerebrospinal system
is an executive to suggest or organize the efforts of each system, ruled
by the sympathetic, to combine for a common object - the continuation of
an organized subject. The efforts of the circulatory system would
be useless were they not combined with all the efforts of the digestive
system, as well as those of the genito-urinary system. The cerebrospinal
system simply coordinates the various independent systems (circulatory,
digestive and genito-urinary) into a unit of life.
10. The phenomena of vaso-neurosis of the
extremities would indicate a great degree of independence of the sympathetic
11. The ordered richness of the sympathetic
nerves in ganglion cells, similar to the cerebrospinal ganglia, would tend
to demonstrate its dependence.
12. The accumulation or aggregation of ganglion
cells in the sympathetic should be sufficient argument for considering
them as small brains, nerve centers of life's action.
13. The independence of the sympathetic nerve
may be observed in the fact that as it departs more widely from the cerebrospinal
it increases in .elements. Increased distribution shows increased
aggregation of ganglion cells, e. g., the Meissner-Billroth and Auerbach's
plexuses in the small intestines.
14. There is a partial necessity that the
sympathetic be relatively independent, at least be out of the control of
the cerebral center. The viscera being necessitated to be in constant
activity, constant rhythm, should be beyond the control of the will, so
that man cannot speculate on his viscera. The intellect cannot disturb
the function of the viscera. The actions of the sympathetic ganglion
are beyond the power of the will.
15. A stubborn opponent of the independence
of the sympathetic nerve (Hermann) freely acknowledged that automatic and
reflex coordinate movements and secretions can be the indication of the
sympathetic ganglion cells quite independent of the cerebrospinal symptoms.
16. A significant partial independence of
the sympathetic may be observed in peritonitis. The reflex irritation
induced by the peritonitis causes extreme vaso-motor contraction in the
skin. The skin becomes waxy pale, the blood is forced out of the
skin by contraction of the vessels and the patient dies gradually from
circumference to center. The heart at first attempts to work more
vigorously to send the blood to the skin vessels, but the harder the heart
works in sending the waste-laden irritating blood to the vessels, the more
they contract, and gradually death approaches the heart. The independence
of the grip of the sympathetic nerve is seen in the gradual death of the
patient, beginning in the skin capillaries and ending at the heart.
It is a good illustration of the fact that irritation of the sympathetic
nerves may be sufficient to force all blood out of a part even to its death.
17. Vulpian severed the sciatic and brachial
plexuses and waited until the pulp of the animal's corresponding paws became
pale. Now, by irritating the pulp of the paws a local congestion
could be produced. Hence reflex irritation of vaso-motor nerves can
be limited to the particular organ or tissue supplied, showing a considerable
degree of independence.
18. It has been suggested by Fox that myxedema
is associated with the independence of the sympathetic.
19. Compression or macroscopial injuries of
the cervical portion of the sympathetic produces such a marked physiologic
phenomenon that it demonstrates in itself a considerable degree of independence
of the sympathetic. The manifestation of compression or injury of
the cervical sympathetic is that of the irritation or paralysis.
Trauma of the cervical sympathetic shows marked independent functional
disturbances. Exophthalmic goiter is considered, even by the skeptical
Eulenberg and Guttmann, as a paralysis of the cervical sympathetic.
If the latter can produce such vast changes, aiid such a dreadful disease,
how great must be the influence of the abdominal brain in its independence.
In exophthalmic goiter the independence of the sympathetic seems dominant,
for of the great triumvirate in that disease - cardiac palpitation, protrusion
of the eyeball and enlargement of the thyroid gland - the cardiac palpitation
seldom fails. Few experimenters or observers fail to connect the
cardiac disturbance with the cervical sympathetic, showing how dominating
it is in this case.
20. The gastrointestinal secretions appear
to be carried on automatically by the Meissner-Billroth (aided by the Auerbach)
plexuses of nerves, which are sympathetic ganglia - automatic visceral
ganglia. The automatic visceral, hepatic, renal, gastrointestinal
and menstrual ganglia, all show a marked degree of independence.
They produce rhythm in the viscera - activity and repose. Undisturbed,
they rule secretion harmoniously, but disturbed anatomic visceral ganglia
induce (a) excessive secretion, (b) deficient secretion and (c) disproportionate
secretion. The last is the most detrimental, for it creates fermentation
and unbalances nutrition.
21. The independence of the automatic visceral
ganglia of the sympathetic may be noted in the idea that if one viscus
becomes diseased it may disturb all the others by reflex action.
22. If one viscus becomes diseased the next
to become diseased is the one connected with the diseased viscus by the
greatest number of nerve strands. If the uterus becomes diseased
the next viscus in order is generally the stomach. However, this
is probably due to the fact that the disturbed stomach functions are easily
23. The abdominal brain is a center of organization
for impressions received from distal viscera. It is a gigantic vaso-motor
center for the abdominal vascular system. The abdominal brain demonstrates
its independence by its definite method of reorganizing reflex actions.
When an abdominal viscus is mildly ill, the abdominal brain reorganizes
the reflex impressions and transmits them mildly to adjacent viscera.
But if a viscus is severely and especially chronically ill, the abdominal
brain reorganizes the reflexes and transmits them violently to the adjacent
viscera, according to the degree of illness. Also the reflexes reorganized
in the abdominal brain are transmitted outward to the viscera with greatest
force on the lines of least resistance, which means that the nerve forces
travel on the plexuses the best where there are the greatest number of
24. The independence of the sympathetic nerve
may be observed in the phenomenon of sleep. It never ceases action
nor sleeps, while the cerebrospinal is in abeyance for about one-third
of our life.
25. E. L. Fox reports two cases of compression
myelitis in the cervical portion of the cord unattended by aily oculopupillary
or vaso-motor paralysis. This would tend to show the independence
of the sympathetic, especially the cervical sympathetic.
26. Ex perimenters report that irritation
of some portion of the cervical sympathetic will produce secretions from
the parotid and submaxillary glands.
27. Fox asserts that irritation of the peripheral
end of the cervical sympathetic will cause protrusion of the eyeball; sedation
will cause sinking of the eyeball, and a slight flattening of the cornea.
We know that in the lids are sets of smooth, muscular fibers innervated
by the sympathetic, and. by contraction of these the lids are opened and
so the eyeball is uncovered.
28. In general it may be said that the sympathetic
presides over involuntary movements, nutrition and secretion, holds an
important influence over temperature and vaso-motor action, and is endowed
with a dull sensibility.
29. Experiments show that after destruction
of the medulla oblongata and brain of the frog irritation will cause congestion
of the limbs.
30. The occurrence of pigmentation in the
skin of the frog, after destruction of the cerebrospinal axis, shows the
independence of the sympathetic.
31. Each histologic unit has its own nervous
system, which is sufficient for it within certain limits.
It may be said that the object of the lateral chain of the sympathetic
is to make known the great ganglionic system to the cerebrospinal system.
32. The ganglia of the uterus (sympathetic)
are independent centers for reflex action. That it can act independently
may be shown by the repulsion of a child after the death of the mother.
It has a powerful reflex action on the heart. It is a great independent
sympathetic ganglion. Associated anatomically with the abdominal
brain are the following plexuses: (a) the diaphragmatic; (b) the suprarenal;
(c) the renal; (d) the spermatic; (e) the superior mesenteric, which intimately
connect it with all the abdominal viscera.
33. The expulsion of feces per rectum after
death of the patinet shows that the sympathetic ganglia of the bowels are
independent centers for reflex action.
34. Pigmentation of the skin in the frog,
after destruction of the cerebrospinal, demonstrates the independence of
35. The abdominal brain is a great reflex
center. Vaso-motor centers are organizing centers, and preside over
the coordination of the visceral rhythm. The abdominal brain is a
ganglion of far reaching significance. It has many connections with
viscera and possesses vast influence over the circulation. It presides
closely over the secretion of the abdominal organs.
36. That the sympathetic is the only nervous
system belonging to some of the lower animals is open to doubt; for if
that were the case, no argument would be required to demonstrate the independence
of the sympathetic. The distinction of the cerebrospinal and sympathetic
as to sleep or repose, since it cannot be proven, must be dropped.
In any argument we must admit the very intimate and mutual dependence of
the sympathetic and cerebrospinal nerves on each other.
37. The essential feature of the pathology
of the sympathetic, and also one which tends to show its independence,
is that the irritation in one organ may be reflected through a sympathetic
ganglion and thus disturb the balance of the viscera. The best, most
common and convincing example is irritation of the cervico-uterine ganglia,
which is directly reflected to the abdominal brain, where the irritation
is reorganized and sent to all the nerve plexuses.
38. The degree of independence of the sympathetic nerve
must be worked out on the lines of experiment and observation of the effect
of disease on its different parts. To what degree is the abdominal brain
a center for the reorganization of forces; how does it modify and transmit receptions?
How supreme is it over the visceral ganglia or does it coordinate their action
to a definite plan? Does it enhance or prohibit their action? Is
the abdominal brain a reflex arc for nerve forces, passing from one organ to
another? In other words, will one diseased organ unbalance all other organs
by transmitting its irritation by way of the reorganizing abdominal brain?