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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/554

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

is a nervous arc, running from a receptor organ to an effector organ, e. g., from a sense-organ to a limb-muscle. We may still, I think, conveniently accept the morphological units termed neurones as units of construction of the reflex arc. It may be that these neurones are in some cases not unicellular, but pericellular. That question need not detain us now. Accepting the neurone as the unit of structure of the reflex chain, the characteristic of the synaptic system is that the chain consists of neurones jointed together in such a way that conduction along the chain seems possible in one direction only. These junctions of the neurones are conveniently termed synapses. The irreversible direction of the conductivity along the neurone chain is probably referable to its synapses. This irreciprocity of conduction especially distinguishes the synaptic nervous system from the nerve-net system. That neurone forms the sole avenue which impulses generated at its receptive point can use whithersoever may be their distant destination. That neurone is therefore a path exclusive to the impulses generated at its own receptive points, and other receptive points than its own can not employ it.

But at the termination of every reflex arc we find a final neurone, the ultimate conductive link to an effector organ, gland or muscle. This last link in the chain, e. g., the motor neurone, differs obviously in one important respect from the first link of the chain. It does not subserve exclusively impulses generated at one single receptive source alone, but receives impulses from many receptive sources situate in many and various regions of the body. It is the sole path which all impulses, no matter whence they come, must travel if they would reach the muscle fibers which it joins. Therefore, while the receptive neurone forms a private path exclusive for impulses of one source only, the final or efferent neurone is, so to say, a public path, common to impulses arising at any of many sources in a variety of receptive regions of the body. The same effector organ stands in reflex connection not only with many individual receptive points, but even with many various receptive fields. Reflex arcs arising in manifold sense organs can pour their influence into one and the same muscle. A limb muscle is the terminus ad quem of nervous arcs arising not only in the right eye, but in the left; not only in the eyes, but in the organs of smell and hearing; not only in these, but in the geotropic labyrinth, in the skin and in the muscles and joints of the limb itself and of the other limbs as well. Its motor nerve is a path common to all these.

Reflex arcs show, therefore, the general feature that the initial neurone is a private path exclusive for a single receptive point; and that finally the arcs embouch into a path leading to an effector organ, and that this final path is common to all receptive points wheresoever they may lie in the body, so long as they have any connection at all with