Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/815

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
795
THE FACULTY OF SPEECH.

rather than the mere mass of the brain, as was previously supposed. Now, this gray matter may be intact and, consequently, all the functions above enumerated may be perfect, and still the ability to articulate may be wanting, because the motor power which is supposed to reside in the white matter, and to preside over the co-ordinating power, controlling the nerves and muscles of articulation, may be impaired, and then, although our ideas may be correct, the ability to express them would be wanting. Medical literature abounds with cases which illustrate this condition. I select the following instance as a perfect illustration of this state: An intelligent man, sixty years old, suddenly became incoherent and quite unintelligible to those around him. He had forgotten the names of every object in nature; his recollection of things seemed to be unimpaired, but the words by which men and things were designated were entirely obliterated from his mind, or rather he had lost the faculty by which they were called up at the control of will. He was, however, by no means inattentive to what was going on, and he recognized friends and acquaintances quickly, but their names, or even his own, or his wife's name, or the names of any of his domestics appeared to have no place in his recollection. One morning, much against the wishes of his family, he went to his workshop, and, when visited by his physician, gave him to understand by a variety of signs that he was perfectly well in every respect, with the exception of some slight sensations referable to the eyes and eyebrows. He was so well in bodily health that he could not be confined to the house, and his judgment, so far as an estimate could be formed of it, was unimpaired, but his memory of words was so much a blank that the monosyllables of affirmation and negation were the only two words of the language the use and signification of which he never entirely forgot. He comprehended perfectly every word that was spoken or addressed to him, and, although he had ideas adequate to form a full reply, the words by which these ideas are expressed seemed entirely obliterated from his mind. By way of experiment, the name of a person or thing was mentioned to him, his own name for example, or that of one of his domestics; he would repeat it once or twice distinctly, but generally before he could do so a third time the word was gone from him as completely as though he had never heard it pronounced. When any one read to him from a book he had no difficulty in perceiving the meaning of the passage, but he could not himself then read. He had forgotten the elements of written language. He became very expert in the use of signs, and his convalescence was marked by his imperceptibly acquiring some general terms which were with him at first of very extensive and varied application. All future events and objects before him were, as he expressed it, "next time"; but past events and objects behind him were designated "last time." One day being asked his age, he pointed to his wife and uttered the words "Many times" repeatedly, as if he meant that he had often