Historical Reprints Health Related Origin and Nature of the Emotions

Origin and Nature of the Emotions

Origin and Nature of the Emotions
Catalog # SKU1459
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.10 lbs
Author Name George W. Crile


Origin and Nature
of the Emotions

By George W. Crile M.D.

The discovery of the anesthetic properties of ether and its practical application to surgery must always stand as one of the great achievements of medicine. It is eminently fitting that the anniversary of that notable day, when the possibilities of ether were first made known to the world, should be celebrated within these walls, and whatever the topic of your Ether Day orator, he must fittingly pause first to pay tribute to that great event and to the master surgeons of the Massachusetts General Hospital. On this occasion, on behalf of the dumb animals as well as on behalf of suffering humanity, I express a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings of anesthesia.


Two years ago, an historic appreciation of the discovery of ether was presented here by Professor Welch, and last year an address on medical research was given by President Eliot. I, therefore, will not attempt a general address, but will invite your attention to an experimental and clinical study. In presenting the summaries of the large amount of data in these researches, I acknowledge with gratitude the great assistance rendered by my associates, Dr. D. H. Dolley, Dr. H. G. Sloan, Dr. J. B. Austin, and Dr. M. L. Menten.

The scope of this paper may be explained by a concrete example. When a barefoot boy steps on a sharp stone there is an immediate discharge of nervous energy in his effort to escape from the wounding stone. This is not a voluntary act. It is not due to his own personal experience-- his ontogeny--but is due to the experience of his progenitors during the vast periods of time required for the evolution of the species to which he belongs, i. e., his phylogeny. The wounding stone made an impression upon the nerve receptors in the foot similar to the innumerable injuries which gave origin to this nerve mechanism itself during the boy's vast phylogenetic or ancestral experience. The stone supplied the phylogenetic association, and the appropriate discharge of nervous energy automatically followed.

If the sole of the foot be repeatedly bruised or crushed by a stone, shock may be produced; if the stone be only lightly applied, then the consequent sensation of tickling causes a discharge of nervous energy. In like manner there have been implanted in the body other mechanisms of ancestral or phylogenetic origin whose purpose is the discharge of nervous energy for the good of the individual. In this paper I shall discuss the origin and mode of action of some of these mechanisms and their relation to certain phases of anesthesia.

The word anesthesia--meaning WITHOUT FEELING--describes accurately the effect of ether in anesthetic dosage. Although no pain is felt in operations under inhalation anesthesia, the nerve impulses excited by a surgical operation still reach the brain. We know that not every portion of the brain is fully anesthetized, since surgical anesthesia does not kill. The question then is: What effect has trauma under surgical anesthesia upon the part of the brain THAT REMAINS AWAKE? If, in surgical anesthesia, the traumatic impulses cause an excitation of the wide-awake cells, are the remainder of the cells of the brain, despite anesthesia, affected in any way? If so, they are prevented by the anesthesia from expressing that influence in conscious perception or in muscular action.

Whether the ANESTHETIZED cells are influenced or not must be determined by noting the physiologic functions of the body after anesthesia has worn off, and in animals by an examination of the brain-cells as well. It has long been known that the vasomotor, the cardiac, and the respiratory centers discharge energy in response to traumatic stimuli applied to various sensitive regions of the body during surgical anesthesia. If the trauma be sufficient, exhaustion of the entire brain will be observed after the effect of the anesthesia has worn off; that is to say, despite the complete paralysis of voluntary motion and the loss of consciousness due to ether, the traumatic impulses that are known to reach the AWAKE centers in the medulla also reach and influence every other part of the brain. Whether or not the consequent functional depression and the morphologic alterations seen in the brain-cells may be due to the low blood-pressure which follows excessive trauma is shown by the following experiments:

The circulation of animals was first rendered STATIC by over-transfusion, and was controlled by a continuous blood-pressure record on a drum, the factor of anemia being thereby wholly excluded during the application of the trauma and during the removal of a specimen of brain tissue for histologic study. In each instance, morphologic changes in the cells of all parts of the brain were found, but it required much more trauma to produce brain-cell changes in animals whose blood-pressure was kept at the normal level than in the animals whose blood-pressure was allowed to take a downward course. In the cortex and in the cerebellum, the changes in the brain-cells were in every instance more marked than in the medulla.

There is also strong NEGATIVE evidence that traumatic impulses are not excluded by ether anesthesia from the part of the brain that is apparently asleep. This evidence is as follows: If the factor of fear be excluded, and if in addition the traumatic impulses be prevented from reaching the brain by cocaine blocking, then, despite the intensity or the duration of the trauma within the zone so blocked, there follows no exhaustion after the effect of the anesthetic disappears, and no morphologic changes are noted in the brain-cells.

Still further negative evidence that inhalation anesthesia offers little or no protection to the brain-cells against trauma is derived from the following experiment: A dog whose spinal cord had been divided at the level of the first dorsal segment, and which had then been kept in good condition for two months, showed a recovery of the spinal reflexes, such as the scratch reflex, etc. Such an animal is known as a "spinal dog." Now, in this animal, the abdomen and hind extremities had no direct nerve connection with the brain. In this dog, continuous severe trauma of the abdominal viscera and of the hind extremities lasting for four hours was accompanied by but slight change in either the circulation or in the respiration, and by no microscopic alteration of the brain-cells. Judging from a large number of experiments on NORMAL dogs under ether, such an amount of trauma would have caused not only complete physiologic exhaustion of the brain, but also morphologic alterations of all of the brain-cells and the physical destruction of many. We must, therefore, conclude that, although ether anesthesia produces unconsciousness, it APPARENTLY PROTECTS NONE OF THE BRAIN-CELLS against exhaustion from the trauma of surgical operations; ether is, so to speak, but a veneer.

Under nitrous oxid anesthesia there is approximately only one-fourth as much exhaustion as is produced by equal trauma under ether. We must conclude, therefore, either that nitrous oxid protects the brain-cells against trauma or that ether predisposes the brain-cells to exhaustion as a result of trauma. With these premises let us now inquire into the cause of this exhaustion of the brain-cells.

Softcover, 5" x 8", 150+ pages