« AnteriorContinuar »
serious disturbance of function which results in jaundice. Is it not probable that upon some such notion respecting the causation of jaundice, the ancient belief regarding the connection between the bile and mental states depended? On some such belief hang Shakespeare's words:
"Why should a man whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?
Among the most remarkable effects of mental emotion in producing curious and well-nigh inexplicable changes in the bodily organization, are those witnessed in the changes which the skin or hair may undergo under the influence of care and fear especially. Take firstly the case of the effects of wrinkled care. If
care will kill a cat," as George Wither has it, despite the innumerable lives with which the feline nature is usually
Sleep when he wakes? and creep into the credited, it is also certain that the
By being peevish ?''
Unquestionably we may find very direct evidence of the near connection between mental states and suppressed secretions when we turn to medical records. An eminent authority in the practice of physic writes: "Certainly the pathemata mentis play their assigned parts; fits of anger, and of fear, and of alarm have been presently followed by jaundice. Α young medical friend of mine had a severe attack of intense jaundice, which could be traced to nothing else than his great and needless anxiety about an approaching examination before the Censors' Board at the College of Physicians. There are scores of instances on record to the same effect.' It seems thus in the highest degree probable that there exist between. mental states and the functions of the liver, relations of the most intimate kind. It is, however, equally important to avoid the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc. As Dr. As Dr. Carpenter remarks, "It is a prevalent, and perhaps not an ill-founded opinion, that melancholy and jealousy have a tendency to increase the quantity, and to vitiate the quality, of the biliary fluid; and among the causes of jaundice are usually set down the indulgence of the depressing emotions, or an access of sudden and violent passion. There can be no doubt, however, that a disordered state of the biliary secretion is frequently rather the cause than the consequence of a melancholic state of mind, the blood being sufficiently vitiated by a deficient elimination of bile, to have its due relations with the nervous system seriously disturbed, before any obvious indications of that deficiency make their appearance in the jaundiced aspect of the cutaneous surface.'
"ravell'd sleave of care" unquestionably affects the bodily processes more plainly and lastingly than any of the other emotions. What text has more frequently been made the subject of poetic comment than the lean body and worn visage encompassing the harassed soul? John Hunter has noted that even in the hen, the care attending the upbringing of her numerous progeny keeps her body lean and meagre. hen shall hatch her chickens," says the observant founder of modern physiology, 'at which time she is very lean; if these chickens are taken from her she will soon get fat, but if they are allowed to stay with her, she will continue lean the whole time she is rearing them, although she is as well-fed and eats as much as she would have done if she had had no chickens." Substitute the worries of business or the cares and exigencies of life for the chickens, and place mankind in the place of the bird, and the picture of the physiologist would read. equally true.
The influences of fear or care upon the skin and hair are equally notable. The" Prisoner of Chillon's'' is no fanciful case, but one which medicine may show is of tolerably common occurrence. Bichát, the physiologist notes such a case. After a severe illness, often after mental worry or temporary insanity, the hair may change its hue in a gradual fashion toward the whiteness of age. And that "sudden fears" may
severe attack of neuralgia occurring in the night, found in the morning that the inner portion of one eyebrow, and the eyelashes attached to the part in question, had become of a white color. There seems every reason to believe in the correctness of Dr. Laycock's assertion, that the natural grayness of old age is connected with certain changes in nerve centres and in the nerves which are connected with the hair bulbs. If this view be correct, it certainly shows how extensive and widespread are the influences which emanate from the brain and nerve-centres as the headquarters of mind. On the converse side of things, we must not fail to note that occasionally, in a perfectly natural fashion, and without any undue mental stimulus, the hair of the aged may exhibit all the luxuriance and characteristics of youth. An old gentleman, aged 75, says Dr. Tuke, whose bones even were so impregnated with a thorough disgust of the Government of George the Fourth that he threw up a lucrative situation in one of the Royal yards," induced his youngest son to go and do likewise. This thoroughgoing Radical insisted, moreover, that his wife, aged 70," toothless for years, and her hair as white as the snow on Mount Blanc, should accompany them to the land where God's' creatures where permitted to inhale the pure, old, invigorating atmosphere of freedom. About six or seven years after their departure, a friend living in New York gave an excellent account of their proceedings. Not only could the old man puff away in glorious style, and the son do well as a portrait painter, but old Mrs.
had cut a new set of teeth, and her poll was covered with a full crop of dark brown hair!"
Some of the most remarkable results of an unusual mental stimulus upon the body, are witnessed in cases wherein specific diseases have not merely been stimulated, but have actually been induced, by the lucid description of them in the hearing of the persons who became thus mysteriously affected. Lecturers on the practice of medicine in our universities and medical schools rarely, if ever, deliver a statutory course to their students without exemplifying the truth of the foregoing observation.
The writer well remembers an instance in point, occurring in a class-fellow of his own who attended the practice of physic class with him. During and after the description of skin diseases, this student suffered extremely from skin irritation, induced by his too vivid realization of the symptoms described by the lecturer. These uncomfortable morbid feelings culminated one day when the lecturer described the symptoms of a certain disease supposed to possess a special sphere of distribution in the northern parts of Great Britain. For days afterward, the student was tormented by an uncomfortable and persistent itching between the fingers, which no treatment seemed to alleviate; but which passed away when an eruption of a simple type appeared on his hands, the latter induced by no known cause, but apparently as the result of the morbid mental influences to which he was subject. Not a session passes in our medical schools but the lecturer on physic has occasion to quiet the nervous fears of nervous students, who stimulate in themselves the symptoms of heart disease, and require the gravest assurances that their fears are ungrounded, and that they have simply been studying with a morbid interest the lecturer's remarks on heart affections.. In his work entitled "De l'Imagination," Demaugeon tells us that Nebelius, lecturing one day upon intermittent fever, and lucidly describing ague, noticed one of his pupils to become pale, to shiver, and to exhibit at last all the symptoms of ague. lad was laid up for a considerable period with a true attack of the fever in question, and recovered under the usual treatment for the disease. If, however, it is found that the influence of the mind, and the vain imaginings of a morbid fancy, may induce disease, it is no less certain that a like action of the mind may occasionally cure an otherwise stubborn malady. No better illustrations of such cases can be cited than those in which a severe fright relieves a condition which may have resisted every effort of treatment. An attack of toothache not unfrequently disappears when we seat ourselves in the dentist's chair. A severe attack of the gout has been cured by the alarm raised consequent upon the house of the patient being set
on fire; while more than one case of severe pain has been cured by the patient ignorantly swallowing the paper on which the surgeon's prescription was written instead of the prescription itself.
There can be little doubt that certain phases of the imagination possess a sin gular and at the same time valuable effect in inducing the removal of diseased conditions. It is not certainly a satisfactory use, when viewed from the moral side, of such knowledge, when we find that a vast number of the cures said to have been effected by the nostrums of quacks, are wrought in virtue of this influence of mind over body. The 'faith-healing" Bethshans, and allied establishments for the cure of all diseases, grave or simple, by faith in the power of prayer, present in the light of this remark a study of physiological interest. Says Dr. Tuke, in the preface to his interesting and classical work on the Influence of the Mind upon the Body,' the medical reader should copy nature in those interesting instances, occasionally occurring, of sudden recovery from the spontaneous action of some powerful moral cause, by employing the same force designedly, instead of leaving it to mere chance. The force is there, continues this author, "acting irregularly and capriciously. The question is whether it cannot be applied and guided with skill and wisdom by the physician. Again and again we exclaim, when some new nostrum, powerless in itself, effects a cure, It is only the imagination!" We attribute to this remarkable mental influence a power which ordinary medicines have failed to exert, and yet are content with a shrug of the shoulders to dismiss the circumstance from our minds without further thought. I want medical men who are in active practice to utilize this force-to yoke it to the car of the Son of Apollo, and, rescuing it from the eccentric orbits of quackery, force it to tread, with measured step, the orderly paths of legitimate medicine. Remember,' said Dr. Rush, in addressing medical students, 'how many of our most useful remedies have been discovered by quacks. Medicine has its Pharisees as well as religion; but the spirit of this sect is as unfriendly to the
These words are full of practical wisdom and sound common sense, and serve to explain the modus operandi of the nostrums which flood the advertising columns of our newspapers, and appeal to our varied senses at well-nigh every turn of modern life. A patient, suffering from some intractable complaint, in which a hoplessness of cure forms no inconsiderable obstacle to the physician's efforts, procures some new nostrum. The very sight of the invariable string of testimonials inspires confidence. There are certain to be included in the list of cures similar cases to his own. He reads and believes; and the nostrum, possibly harmless as the bread pills prescribed by the physician for the hypochondriac, receives another tribute of grateful praise. The analogous case of Liebig, who, when a young man had neglected to prepare for his master's visitors the nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas" of the modern dentist, but filled the inhalers with atmospheric air instead, illustrates once again the power of faith. The common air produced all the symptoms of mild gaseous intoxication which the laughing gas was expected to induce. Venturing within the region of household medicine and popular surgery, perhaps the charming away of warts presents us with another instance of the literally remarkable influence of the mind in modifying not merely physical states but bodily structures. Every "wisewoman' in the remote districts of the country, to which the spread of educational sweetness and light has mostly confined such homely oracles, possesses a "charm" for driving away the excrescences in question. Even in the time of Lucian such female practitioners of a mild species of occult art were celebrated for their successful treatment of warts. Dr. Tuke gives a case in point, in which, through the effects of the imagination, even in a cultured person, the growths in question were made to disappear. A surgeon's daughter had about a dozen warts on her hands, the usual modes of treatment having availed nothing in their removal. For eighteen months, the warts remained intractable, until a gentleman, noticing the disfigure. ment, asked her to count them. Care
fully and solemnly noting down their number, he then said, "You will not be troubled with your warts after next Sunday." At the time named, the warts had disappeared, and did not return. Here, the connection between the imaginative impression of some occult or mysterious power, and the cure, was too close to leave a doubt that, as in other cases of bodily ailment, the mind, which so frequently affects the body to its hurt, had in turn favorably influenced the physical organization.
No less a personage than Lord Bacon himself had a similar cure performed upon his hands by the English Ambassador's lady at Paris, who," he adds, was a woman far from superstition. The lady's procedure certainly betokened a belief in some occult effects or influences, for Bacon tells us that, taking a piece of lard with the skin on, "she rubbed the warts all over with the fat side" and among the growths so treated was one he had had from childhood. "Then, continues the narrative," she nailed the piece of lard, with the fat toward the sun, upon a post of her chamber window, which was to the south. The success was that in five weeks' space all the warts went quite away, and that wart which I had so long endured for company. But at the rest I did little marvel,' says Bacon, "because they came in a short time, and might go away in a short time again; but the going away of that which had stayed so long doth yet stick with me.' The miscellaneous character of the substances used in wart charms and in incantations of like nature, at once reveals the fact of the real cure lying is some direction other than that of the nostrum. Beneath the material substance unconsciously used as a mere bait for the imagination, work the forces of mind acting through the medium of the nervous syst m. The confident expectation of a cure," to use Dr. Carpenter's expression, is the most potent means of bringing it about; and, as another writer remarks, Any system of treatment however absurd that can be 'puffed' into public notoriety for efficacy-any individual who, by accident or design, obtains a reputation for the possession of a special gift of healing-is certain to
attract a multitude of sufferers, among whem will be several who are capable of being really benefited by a strong assurance of belief, while others for a time believe themselves to have experienced it. And there is, for the same reason, adds this author, "no religion that has attained a powerful hold on the minds. of its votaries, which cannot boast its miracles' of this order.
The same spirit of popular belief and credulity which long ago asserted that vaccination produced a growth of
horns'' on the heads of the vaccinated subjects, from their being inoculated with the matter obtained from the cow, was displayed in another but equally unreasoning fashion in the assertion that the touch of a Royal hand could cure scrofula—a disease which to this day retains the popular name of "king's evil." Macaulay relates that when William III. refused to lend his hand and countenance to the cure of scrofula, evidence of overwhelming nat· ure as to the multitude of cures which had been wrought by the Royal touch, was collected and submitted. The clergy testified to the reality of the effects induced, as in earlier years they had frequently been the chief propagators of superstitious myths concerning healing powers of occult nature, while the medical profession testified that the rapidity of the apparent cures placed them beyond the sphere of natural causation, and brought them within the domain of faith a lack of which virtue resulted in failure to effect a cure. In the reign of Charles II. nearly one hundred thousand persons were touched;" and King James, in Chester Cathedral, performed a similar service to eight hundred persons. On William the consequences of refusing to favor a popular delusion fell fast and heavy, Jacobites and Whigs alike criticised his determination unfavorably; but in the era we speak of began the decline of the sovereign virtue of the Royal touch-a virtue which is scarcely spoken of, much less demanded, in these latter days, which, however, countenance and support delusions of equally absurd kind. Dr. Tuke quotes a passage from Aubray to the effect that The curing of the King's Evil, by the touch of the King, does much puzzle our philoso
phers, for whether our kings were of the house of York or Lancaster, it did the cure for the most part. In other words," adds Dr. Tuke, "the imagination belongs to no party, guild, or creed."
Within the domain of theology itself, the physiologist occasionally finds it his duty to intrude; since therefrom not a few illustrations of very remark able kind respecting the influence of mind upon body, have been drawn. The more important do these instances become, because, from a moral point of view, their influence tends often to propagate as the
miracle' of the credu lous, a condition or effect readily explicable upon scientific grounds. In convents, not merely have delusions resulting from diseased imagination been frequently represented, but such delusions have affected in various remarkable ways the bodies of the subjects in question, and have in turn extended their influence to others. Thus, for instance, a tendency to mew like a cat, seen in one inmate, has passed through an entire convent. One of the best known instances of a disordered imagination tending to propagate a delusion, is that given by Boerhaave, who was consulted with reference to an epidemic occurring in a convent, and which was characterized by a succession of severe fits. On the principle similia similibus curantur Boerhaave determined to repress the disordered and, for the time, dominant idea," by another of practical kind, and accordingly announced his intention to use grave medical measures in the shape of a red-hot iron on the first patient who presented herself. Needless to remark, the dominant idea of the physician replaced that arising from the abnormal action of mind, and the peace of the convent was duly restored by this simple expedient.
One of the most familiar cases which occurred within recent times was that of Louise Lateau, a young Belgian peasant, whose mental aberrations, aided by some very singular bodily defects, gained for her the reputation of sanctity of a high order and uncommon origin. To begin with, Louise Lateau suffered from a protracted illness from which she recovered after receiving the Sacrament. Naturally enough, this circumstance
alone affected her mind, and stamped her recovery as a somewhat supernatural, or at any rate as a highly extraor dinary, occurrence. Soon thereafter blood began to flow from a particular spot on her side every Friday. A few months later, bleeding points, or stigmata, began to appear on the palm and back of each hand. The upper surface of the feet also exhibited similar bleeding points, and on her brow a circle of spots also appeared, the markings thus coming to imitate closely the injuries. familiar to all in connection with the Crucifixion. Every Friday these points bled anew, the health of the subject of these strange phenomena being visibly affected; while the mere nature of the condition was sufficient to stamp her case as peculiar in the highest degree. At the period when the stigmata began to be developed, Louise Lateau also commenced to exhibit that condition of mind universally known under the term ecstasy." In this state, which might be described as that of abstraction plus rapture, the mind is removed from its surroundings, as in somnambulism or the mesmeric state. Louise Lateau, however, could, as in many cases of the mesmeric trance, describe after her return to consciousness the sensations she had experienced. She described minutely her experiences as consisting of the sensation of being plunged into an atmosphere of bright light from which various forms began to appear. The scenes of the Passion were then enacted before her, and every detail of the Crucifixion was related by her, down to a minute description of the spectators around the cross. The successive pictures which were being represented to her mind could be traced in her actions. Each emotion was accompanied by a corresponding movement, and at 3 P.M. she extended her limbs in the shape of a cross. After the ecstasy had passed away, extreme prostration followed; the pulse was feeble, breathing slow, and the surface of the body bedewed with a cold perspiration. In about ten minutes thereafter, she returned to her normal state.
Such is a brief recital of a case by no means unique in the history of physiology, but which demonstrates in a singular fashion how mind may act upon