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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/556

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lar pattern. The pattern of arrangement of the conductive network of the central organ reveals somewhat of the integrative function of the nervous system. It tells us what organs work together in time. The impulses are led to this and that effector organ, gland or muscle, in accordance with the pattern. The success achieved in the unraveling of the conductive patterns of the brain and cord is shown by the diagrams furnished by the works of such investigators as Edinger, Exner, Flechsig, van Gehuchten, v. Lenhossek, v. Monakow, Ramon and Schäfer. Knowledge of this kind stands high among the neurological advances of our time.

But we must not be blind to its limitations. The achievement may, though more difficult, be likened to tracing the distribution of blood vessels after Harvey's discovery gave them meaning, but before the vasomotor mechanism was discovered. The blood vessels of an organ may be turgid at one time, constricted almost to obliteration at another. With the conductive network of the nervous system the temporal changes are even greater, for they extend to absolute withdrawal of nervous influence. Our schemata of the pattern of the great central organ take no account of temporal data. But the pattern of the web of conductors is not really immutable. Functionally its details change from moment to moment. In any active part it is a web that shifts from one pattern to another, from a first to a second, from a second to a third, then back perhaps to the first and then to a fourth and so on backwards and forwards. As a tap to a kaleidoscope, so a new stimulus that strikes the central organ causes it to assume a partially new pattern. The pattern in general remains, but locally the patterns are in constant flux of back and forward change. These time-changes offer, I venture to think, a study important for understanding the integrative function of the nervous system.

If we regard the nervous system of any higher organism from the broad point of view, a salient feature in its architecture is the following: At the commencement of every reflex arc is a receptive neurone, extending from the receptive surface to the central nervous organ.