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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/74

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68
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

suddenly formed upon a bright ground the patch appears to be momentarily surrounded by a blue border, and he accounts for this by the theory of a sympathetic affection of the red nerve fiber; when the light is suddenly cut off from a patch in a bright field, there occurs an insensitive reaction in the red fibers just outside the darkened patch, in virtue of which they cease for a short time to respond to the luminous stimulus, in sympathy with those inside the patch. The green and violet fibers, by continuing to respond uninterruptedly, give rise to the sensation of a blue border. Where highly competent experts fail to agree it would be rash to state any definite conclusions. It is difficult, however, not to believe that, whatever the precise retinal process may be, over-stimulation and fatigue certainly have very much to do in calling it into action. Associated with the violet halo, as we have found, there is a tendency under mescal, especially by the aid of a bright flickering light, for shadows generally to be variously colored, more especially (as in erythropsia and allied conditions) towards the outskirts of the visual field. Any one who will sit for a few minutes with his eyes directed on a sheet of white paper illuminated by bright sunlight will soon begin to see on a small scale a faint reproduction of the colored shadows seen under the influence of mescal. Here clearly we have a fatigue phenomenon due to over-stimulation by bright light, and precisely analogous to the after-images produced by looking at any excessively bright object. Under mescal we have a similar effect produced, not through the stimulation of unusually bright light, but by the unusually hyper├Žsthetic condition of the visual apparatus, due in part to the dilatation of the pupil and in part to the effect of mescal on the retina.

There is one other effect of this fascinating drug to which attention may finally be called. It has been pointed out that under mescal all the peripheral sense organs become highly irritable or hyper├Žsthetic. Not only is this so, but they are brought in a quite unusual degree into sympathy with each other. I found that casual stimulation of the skin at once heightened the brilliancy of the visions, or produced an impression of sound. One of my subjects, an artist, had a curious sensation of tasting colors, and another found that music had a delightful influence over the visual effects. This, and the fact that the Indians keep up a continual beating of drums during the time they are under mescal, led me to plan a further experiment on myself with mescal. I arranged that when the stream of visions was in full force a friend should play to me on the piano various pieces of a more or less progressive character which were unknown to me, at all events by name. I found that these pieces, more especially those which were somewhat uniform and monotonous, not only distinctly stimulated the visions, but influenced their character; and in about half the tests there was a