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Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.

Boston: R. Badger, 1914




I FIND in my experiments on the induction of the intermediary hypnoidal states in man that the conditions of monotony, limitation of voluntary movements, limitation of the field of consciousness are of the utmost consequence. In my experiments on animals I followed the same line of work and as far as possible reproduced the same conditions. I tried to limit the incoming sensory impressions, to limit the voluntary movements, relax them as much as possible and produce a monotonous state by the continuous inhibition of new and varied stimulations. After narrowing down the animal's psycho-physiological activity I invariably found that when I succeeded in maintaining closely the same conditions which have been found favorable in human subjects for the induction of sub-waking states, the animal uniformly fell into a passive condition closely analogous to the subwaking state and in many instances into a deep sleep.

      The condition of the animal was often strikingly similar to the one observed in the human subject. The respiration and pulse were lowered, while mental activity in the higher animals, alertness of sensory and motor reactions to external stimulations in the lower animals became greatly reduced and even completely suppressed. In the higher animals, such as dogs, a transitory cataleptic state, a state in which the voluntary muscles retained the position given to them, could be observed accompanied by a disturbance of respiration and heart-beat.

      The slight disturbance then subsided and calmness supervened. The calm lasted but a brief period of time and the disturbances reappeared. The latter were once more succeeded by calm which ended by a full waking state or by a deep sleep. In other words, the experiments, allow me to draw the conclusion that I had here the typical manifestations observed under the same conditions in the human subjects. I found here the manifestations characteristic of the intermediary hypnoidal states, the animal now passing into waking and now falling into sleep.

      In the series of experiments carried out on frogs I find present the conditions of monotony and limitation of voluntary movements as well as of limitation of what may be regarded in the frog as consciousness, or of the limitation of the activity of the sensorium by cutting off the regularly incoming sensory stimulations. As a result we find something analogous to what we should have expected in the human subject under like conditions, namely, the presence of peculiar passive states,—that is all that we are thus far justified in saying of them, observed and described by experimenters who do not have the possibility of getting the subjective experience of the animal under observation.

      What we find in the state of the frog is a condition somewhat analogous to what we have found in our experiments in the human subjects namely the presence of intermediary states of the subwaking hypnoidal type. The symptoms observed differ somewhat, but in general they may be regarded as alike. We find a passive state with cataleptic manifestations. The state varies from catalepsy to relaxation, or what may be regarded as lethargy, and again from passivity to activity, from sluggish to very lively reactions in response to external stimulations. We have therefore here, manifestations which remind one of like manifestations in the human subject, namely, subwaking hypnoidal states which are on the borderland of waking, hypnosis, and sleep.

      Of course, we should not expect to find that frogs which stand so low in the scale of vertebrates would manifest phenomena of the higher vertebrates, but we should expect that some similar phenomena, though otherwise widely different, would be present. This is precisely what we find in the frog. We find the general characteristics, though rather vague, of what is afterwards fully developed in man as the subwaking, hypnoidal state.

      We must remember besides that the hypnoidal state is very unstable and its manifestations, having the characteristics of waking-state, sleep, and hypnosis greatly vary in different individuals, and at different times in the same individual. We should therefore expect that the hypnoidal state would show still more radical differences from the typical in the various species of animals, especially in those that stand so far apart from each other as frog and man. What is surprising to me is not the variation and great difference of the hypnoidal state in the frog as contrasted with that of man, but that the difference is really not far greater, considering the gap that exists between the two organisms. In fact, the similarity is far more striking than the difference between the hypnoidal states of the two contrasted organizations so widely apart in the scale of evolution.

      My view then is that the phenomena observed in the frog are hypnoidal in character. The phenomena themselves as well as the conditions under which they are induced warrant my view of the hypnoidal nature of the states.

      In this respect we can well understand the apparent disagreement of the early observers on the subject. Czermak and Danielewsky regard the phenomena as being of the hypnotic order, Heubel regards them as being more of sleep states, while Preyer views them as being the results of fright which give in the waking state cataleptic manifestations closely similar to those observed in hypnosis. Verworn who regards the phenomena as "Lagecoi rectionen" due to central inhibitions really does not conflict with any of the views. It is simply a general physiological hypothesis which may be in accord with any view, a physiological hypothesis which may or may not be true; it is a hypothesis far removed from the special facts and should be tested on its own merits.

      My point of view is not a matter of hypothesis, but describes and explains the phenomena in terms of states having similar manifestations and produced under the same conditions, states which are more developed and stand out more pronounced in higher animals. These states possess many of the characteristics of the waking state, sleep, and hypnosis. Hence the reason why the early observers regarded the phenomena as waking states, others considered them as hypnosis, while other investigators regarded the phenomena as sleep states.

      As a matter of fact the phenomena and the conditions under which they are induced make the view highly probable that the different investigators are not far from the truth, but not being acquainted with the peculiar hypnoidal states described, they observed the phenomena in too one sided terms, in terms of sleep, or hypnosis, or of waking states. In reality the phenomena and conditions under which they are induced point strongly to the fact that the states are hypnoidal in character, states which partake at once of all the three apparently contradictory manifestations,—waking, sleep, and hypnosis. Now the manifestation of the waking-state, now the symptoms of sleep, and now again those of hypnosis predominate.

      The state induced in the frog under the conditions of monotony, limitation, and inhibition is a variety of the subwaking, hypnoidal states. This induced hypnoidal state, being intermediary in character, may either partake of the catalepsy of hypnosis strongly modified and manifesting itself differently in the frog than in the human subject, or may again go over into the passive state of "sleep" or some state analogous to it.

      It is perhaps of importance to call attention to the significant fact that the first stages induced in the frog are rather of an unstable character,—the frog when put on its back and kept down for but a short time falls into an apparently cataleptic state of short duration. The animal soon rights itself and is fully awake as before. This instability is very characteristic. Now the hypnoidal states are characterized by this fundamental trait of instability. It is only when the condition of monotony, limitations of voluntary movements and inhibition are sufficiently prolonged, that the catalepsy becomes more or less fixed for some period of time; and when this passes off, and the conditions under which the frog is kept are continued still further, it is only then that the frog sinks into a passive state which may last indefinitely, unless brought out of it by some strong stimulation. It seems to me then, that if we take all this into consideration, we cannot possibly describe the state in which the frog is put, in other terms than what we have on other occasions discovered to be the intermediary, subwaking, hypnoidal state.

      The experiments on guinea-pigs gave results somewhat similar to those of the frogs, though the cataleptic states were not so pronounced,—in fact they were transient. Still the induction of sleep was brought about under conditions of monotony, limitation, and inhibition. It was far more difficult to bring about rest or passive states in guinea-pigs than in frogs, on account of the great liveliness and ceaseless activity of the pigs.

      At times anaesthetics were resorted to in order to facilitate the production of hypnoidal states. It may be objected that the anaesthetics somewhat modified the result, because it may be claimed that the sleep-states induced were really due to the anaesthetics used. This objection however can be easily obviated by the rejoinder that the action of the anaesthetic was only to reduce the extraordinary activity and restlessness of the animal and thus make it easier to induce sleep.

      The sleep-states themselves were really produced under the same conditions as were the ones induced in frogs and in my human subjects. In fact even when the guinea-pigs were really lively and active it was sufficient to subject them to the conditions described, when they gradually fell into a state very much of the character of hypnoidal states and sleep. The phenomena though were not so well marked as in the frogs.

      A set of experiments were carried out by me on birds and chickens with similar surprising results. The birds were subjected to the general conditions of hypnoidization. In all the subjects the manifestations of the hypnoidal state were clearly observed.

      In the experiments on kittens we find the phenomena of the subwaking states somewhat more developed than in the guinea-pigs or in the frogs. The cataleptic phenomena are not so pronounced as they are in the frog, but the manifestations of the subwaking states approach more closely the manifestations observed by me in human subjects. The state is more hypnoidal in character, there is present the transient scarcely perceptible catalepsy which appears for but a moment, giving way immediately either to sleep, or to the waking state.

      Of course, we should not expect to meet with a typical, fully developed suggestibility or somnambulistic state in guinea-pigs or in kittens, considering the fact that even in man, the imbecile, the idiot, and the mentally obtuse hardly go into any such a state. It requires a mind of a highly organized constitution to get into a state of abnormal suggestibility and of somnambulism with their accompanying manifestations. What, however, we do find is the characteristic instability of the manifestations of the intermediary, subwaking, hypnoidal states, having some of the most general somatic symptoms of hypnosis, such as slight catalepsy, but leading into a passive condition on the intensification of the state. The state in which the animal is plunged under the condition of monotony and limitation is hypnoidal, leading towards sleep.

      Dogs are subject to the same conditions of sleep states as is the case with other animals experimented upon. The experiments on dogs bring out the fact that the conditions requisite to induce hypnoidal states in men also hold good in the case of dogs. The hypnoidal states, both in falling into, as well as rising from sleep, are far more pronounced in the dog than in the lower animals experimented upon; the states themselves come up far more closely to similar states observed in man under the same conditions of monotony, limitations, and inhibition than they do in other animals, such as the frog, the guinea-pig, the cat.

      Phylogenetically regarded, the hypnoidal is the primitive "rest state" out of which sleep and hypnosis have become differentiated. The lower the animal the more insecure, the more unstable are its "rest states." The animal must be on the alert in its rest, and "sleep" if at all, with its eyes open, so to say. It must be quick to wake and run from danger, or if it cannot get away, it must "freeze and feign death." In other words, it must be able for the sake of protection to fall into a state of catalepsy. Hence the rest states must partake of waking, sleep, and hypnosis, that is, must be essentially hypnoidal in character.

      The experiments on dogs are more instructive than the ones carried out on other animals, because they clearly bring out the general principle of monotony and limitation in the causation of sleep. Diminution in the variability of the volume of sensory impressions brings about the hypnoidal state as well as that of sleep.

      The experiments on animals were followed by experiments on children. The subjects were of different ages ranging from infants a few days old, to children twelve and thirteen years of age.

      It is well known that children usually fall asleep more easily than adults; they sleep longer and also more soundly. This is specially the case with young children and particularly with infants. We know that an infant passes most of its time in sleep, when it does not eat. We should expect therefore that the material would readily lend itself to our present purpose of experimentation,—to the induction of sleep states.

      As a matter of fact, I find that in a number of my cases dealing with children it is no difficult task to put them to sleep, or to induce some form of subwaking state, hypnoidal or other closely allied to it. The child easily falls into a subwaking, hypnoidal state. When trying to put children to sleep I have often obtained a hypnotic condition, and on the other hand when attempting to put my little patients into a hypnotic state I have only succeeded in putting them to sleep. Before going, however, into either the hypnotic or sleep state, I observed, by close examination, the presence of the hypnoidal state, induced under the conditions of monotony and limitation of voluntary movements.

      Since limitation of the voluntary activity, limitation of the field of consciousness, and inhibition all help to a greater monotony, we may characterize the whole set of conditions requisite for the induction of sleep as the conditions of monotony. In children; especially in infants in whom voluntary activity and the field of consciousness are undeveloped and limited, we should expect the child would form a far better soil than the adult for the induction of the intermediary subwaking states and sleep. This is precisely what we find to be the case.

      Moreover, the mind of the child, and more particularly that of the infant, specially depends on muscular activity and on the wealth of incoming sensory impressions. That is why the child and the infant take such delight in motor activity,—in tasting, testing, and handling things. If now the motor activity is limited and the main source of sensory impressions, such as sight is restricted, and if the environment is kept in a state of monotony, such as darkness and lack of auditory stimulation, or monotony is brought about by continuous noise and buzzing of some instruments producing a uniform noise, the child, on account of the poverty of its inner mental life, easily falls into a subwaking, twilight hypnoidal state, and then into sleep.

      Thus we find that in infants, and children, as in lower animals, sleep, hypnosis, and twilight hypnoidal states are intimately related.


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