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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/555

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551
CORRELATION OF REFLEXES.

the effector organ in question. Before finally converging upon the motor neurone arcs usually converge to some degree by their private paths embouching upon internuncial paths common in various degree to groups of private paths. The terminal path may, to distinguish it from internuncial common paths, be called the final common path. The motor nerve to a muscle is a collection of such final common paths.

Certain results flow from this arrangement. One seems the preclusion of qualitative differences between nerve-impulses arising in different afferent nerves. If two conductors have a tract in common, there can hardly be qualitative difference between their modes of conduction.

A second result is that each receptor being independent for communication with its effector organ upon a path not exclusively its own, but common to it with certain other receptors, that nexus necessitates successive and not simultaneous use of the common path by various receptors using it to different effect.

The first link of each reflex chain is a neurone which starts in a receptor organ, e. g., a sense-organ. A receptive field, e. g., an area of skin, is always analyzable into receptive points, and the initial nerve-path in every reflex arc starts from a receptive point or points. A single receptive point may play reflexly upon quite a number of different effector organs. It may be connected through its reflex path with many muscles and glands in various parts. Yet all its reflex arcs spring from the one single shank, so to say; that is, from the one afferent neurone that conducts from the receptive point at the periphery into the central nervous organ. This neurone dips at its deep end into the great central nervous organ, the cord or brain. There it enters a vast network of conductive paths. In this network it forms manifold connections. So numerous are its potential connections there, that, as shown by the general convulsions induced under strychnia-poisoning, its impulses can discharge practically every muscle and effector organ in the body. Yet under normal circumstances the impulses conducted by it to this central network do not irradiate there in all directions. Though their spread over the conducting network does, as judged by the effects, increase with increase of stimulation of the entrant path, the irradiation remains limited to certain lines. Under weak stimulation of the entrant path these lines are sparse. The conductive network affords, therefore, to any given path entering it some communications that are easier than others. This canalization of the network in certain directions from each entrant point is sometimes expressed, borrowing electrical terminology, by saying that the conductive network from any given point offers less resistance along certain circuits than along others. This recognizes the fact that the conducting paths in the great central organ are arranged in a particu-