Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/824

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Now if acquired structural traits are inheritable, the various contrasts above set down are obvious consequences; for the gradations in tactual perceptiveness correspond with the gradations in the tactual exercise of the parts. Save by contact with clothes, which present only broad surfaces having but slight and indefinite contrasts, the trunk has but little converse with external bodies, and it has but small discriminative power; but what discriminative power it has is greater on its face than on its back, corresponding to the fact that the chest and abdomen are much more frequently explored by the hands: this difference being probably in part inherited from inferior creatures, for, as we may see in dogs and cats, the belly is far more accessible to feet and tongue than the back. No less obtuse than the back are the middle of the back of the neck, the middle of the forearm, and the middle of the thigh; and these parts have but rare experiences of irregular foreign bodies. The crown of the head is occasionally felt by the fingers, as also the back of one hand by the fingers of the other; but neither of these surfaces, which are only twice as perceptive as the back, is used with any frequency for touching objects, much less for examining them. The lower part of the forehead, though more perceptive than the crown of the head, in correspondence with a somewhat greater converse with the hands, is less than one third as perceptive as the tip of the nose; and manifestly, both in virtue of its relative prominence, in virtue of its contacts with things smelt at, and in virtue of its frequent acquaintance with the handkerchief, the tip of the nose has far greater tactual experience. Passing to the inner surfaces of the hands, which, taken as wholes, are more constantly occupied in touching than are the back, breast, thigh, forearm, forehead, or back of the hand, Weber's scale shows that they are much more perceptive, and that the degrees of perceptiveness of different

    If we figure to ourselves the separate sensitive areas which severally yield independent feelings, as constituting a network (not, indeed, a network sharply marked out, but probably one such that the ultimate fibrils in each area intrude more or less into adjacent areas, so that the separations are indefinite), it is manifest that when, with exercise, the structure has become further elaborated, and the meshes of the network smaller, there must be a multiplication of fibers communicating with the central nervous system. If two adjacent areas were supplied by branches of one fiber, the touching of either would yield to consciousness the same sensation: there could be no discrimination between points touching the two. That there may be discrimination, there must be a distinct connection between each area and the tract of gray matter which receives the impressions. Nay more, there must be, in this central recipient tract, an added number of the separate elements which, by their excitement, yield separate feelings. So that this increased power of tactual discrimination implies a peripheral development, a multiplication of fibers in the trunk-nerve, and a complication of the nerve-center. It can scarcely be doubted that analogous changes occur under analogous conditions throughout all parts of the nervous system—not in its sensory appliances only, but in all its higher co-ordinating appliances up to the highest.