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Forms Of Sensory Stimuli

Let us next inquire how this mechanism of the nervous system is acted
upon in such a way as to give us sensations. In order to understand
this, we must first know that all forms of matter are composed of minute
atoms which are in constant motion, and by imparting this motion to the
air or the ether which surrounds them, are constantly radiating energy
in the form of minute waves throughout space. These waves, or
radiations, are incredibly rapid in some instances and rather slow in
others. In sending out its energy in the form of these waves, the
physical world is doing its part to permit us to form its acquaintance.
The end-organs of the sensory nerves must meet this advance half-way,
and be so constructed as to be affected by the different forms of energy
which are constantly beating upon them.

ether from the sun, our chief source of light, are so rapid that
billions of them enter the eye in a second of time, and the retina is of
such a nature that its nerve cells are thrown into activity by these
waves; the impulse is carried over the optic nerve to the occipital lobe
of the cortex, and the sensation of sight is the result. The different
colors also, from the red of the spectrum to the violet, are the result
of different vibration rates in the waves of ether which strike the
retina; and in order to perceive color, the retina must be able to
respond to the particular vibration rate which represents each color.
Likewise in the sense of touch the end-organs are fitted to respond to
very rapid vibrations, and it is possible that the different qualities
of touch are produced by different vibration rates in the atoms of the
object we are touching. When we reach the ear, we have the organ which
responds to the lowest vibration rate of all, for we can detect a sound
made by an object which is vibrating from twenty to thirty times a
second. The highest vibration rate which will affect the ear is some
forty thousand per second.

Thus it is seen that there are great gaps in the different rates to
which our senses are fitted to respond--a sudden drop from billions in
the case of the eye to millions in touch, and to thousands or even tens
in hearing. This makes one wonder whether there are not many things in
nature which man has never discovered simply because he has not the
sense mechanism enabling him to become conscious of their existence.
There are undoubtedly more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt
of in our philosophy.

DEPENDENCE OF THE MIND ON THE SENSES.--Only as the senses bring in the
material, has the mind anything with which to build. Thus have the
senses to act as messengers between the great outside world and the
brain; to be the servants who shall stand at the doorways of the
body--the eyes, the ears, the finger tips--each ready to receive its
particular kind of impulse from nature and send it along the right path
to the part of the cortex where it belongs, so that the mind can say, A
sight, A sound, or A touch. Thus does the mind come to know the
universe of the senses. Thus does it get the material out of which
memory, imagination, and thought begin. Thus and only thus does the mind
secure the crude material from which the finished superstructure is
finally built.

Next: Factors Determining The Efficiency Of The Nervous System

Previous: Localization Of Function In The Nervous System

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