SCIENCE AND SANITY - online book

An Introduction To Non-aristotelian Systems And General Semantics.

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We should remember that the nervous system of the human child is not finished at birth. The extension, the growth, and the multiplication of the appendages of the neurones., go on after birth. The nervous system of an adult shows striking differences in the length and complexity of the nerve cells over that of the infant. The researches of Hammarberg showed, in all the cases of idiocy he investigated, an arrest of development in a more or less large part of the cortex, at a stage corresponding to either an embryological period, or to the period of early infancy. Only a small number of cells had reached their full development during the growth of the cortex. The psycho-logical defects were in direct proportion to the defects of the development of the cells, and were the greater the earlier the period of arrest of development.6 In extreme congenital imbecility the cortex is poorly organized, is thin and deficient in nerve cells. Bolton's second layer of pyramidal cells matures last; and its development in different mammals corresponds to the degree of their 'intelligence'. In humans, its degree of deficiency corresponds to the degree of 'mental' arrest or regression. In organic 'mental' diseases very diffuse cortical lesions, when present, impair 'intelligence'. Affective disturbances depend upon even smaller brain lesions, particularly when the thalamic regions are affected.7 In general, lesions in the basal ganglia diminish the energy of the impulsive life (sleeping sickness). Lesions at the base of the frontal lobe, and some brain tumours, lead to euphoric excitement, which gives a feeble, stupid expression, facetiousness, and a tendency to teasing. Other lesions in the basal ganglia lead to a labile affectivity. All destructions of parts of the brain usually lead to irritability and moodiness. In different focal lesions of the brain the disturbances lead to anger and rage.8
Among other results of organic brain diseases we find semantic disturbances, absence of critical faculty, and a disturbance of judgement; complicated situations can no longer be grasped, the evaluation of relations is impaired,. In cases of labile affectivity the special 'emotion' dominates the patient completely. Trifles make him either very happy or desperate. Because of the decrease in association or deficiency in the process of relating, the patient often appears indifferent, although the defect is not primarily in the affective field. Similar difficulties in association or relating make many patients appear egotistic in their s.r and behaviour. Since the patients have lost their insight in, and evaluation of, different life situations, their actions appear un-ethical. Tenderness, consideration, tact, aesthetic sensibility, sense of duty, sense of right, feeling of shame., may all disappear at any moment, though they would otherwise naturally be present. Any kind of impulse may be translated