Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/222

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

dry way of classification will be again most helpful here, as it shows us that these cases are mostly of "functional disorders"—when the organs of the body fail to perform their proper work. It is clearly impossible that any cell in the body should work at high pressure all the time, for adequate rest is essential to all living matter; further, it would be wasteful for secretions to be made when they were not needed, and nature abhors waste, while useless secretions would tend to produce sickness. It is one of the duties of the sympathetic nervous system to stimulate the activities of each organ at the proper time, and also to stop the process when no longer needed. It consists of a double chain of masses of nervous tissue, called ganglia, lying inside and on both sides of the spinal column, connected with each other by nerves, and also with great networks of nerves called plexuses, which govern the heart, blood vessels, intestines, liver, lungs and other organs. The spinal ganglia receive branches from the spinal nerves, which bring them into relation with the cerebellum and brain. The mechanism works reflexly, without the interference of the will. If, for instance, we ascend a mountain where the air is rarer, the lungs work more rapidly, as the result of more frequent stimuli from the sympathetic, thus taking enough more air to counterbalance the deficiency of oxygen. The presence of waste in the circulation stimulates the kidneys, a high temperature excites the perspiration, and the proper conditions cause the other organs to act. The exciting cause in the organ, whatever it may happen to be, sends an impulse up to the reflex centers, which in turn send an order down to the organs to get to work until commanded to stop. If by any means we can send a similar impulse up to the reflex centers without the presence of the usual exciting cause—a false alarm, so to speak—we shall get the regular result. It is also probable that the reflex centers can be made to give the regular orders to start work, not in the customary way by a message sent up to it from the organ, but by direct command of the lower parts of the brain, though not immediately by the cerebrum, or thinking portion. The functions of the sympathetic system are modified by the two pneumogastric nerves which start in the head and extend to the digestive organs, lungs, heart, liver, stomach and other organs.

It will, perhaps, be clearer to select one organ as a type of functional disorder, and follow the process closely, bearing in mind that these remarks do not apply at all to cases where there has been an alteration in structure, as these are not susceptible to mental healing. We will choose the stomach, the most abused organ, as it is defenseless against the acts of the will in putting into it all kinds of injurious substances. It takes its revenge, however, for ill-treatment, not only by causing pain in its own vicinity, but by instigating pain in the chest, dizziness, sleeplessness, headache, black specks and other dis-