ACUTE REFLEX DISORDERS CAUSED BY THE CINEMATOGRAPH

GEORGE M. GOULD
1912 Journal of the American Medical Association  
That the moving-picture shows cause, in many spectators, functional diseases similar to those of eye-strain and ocular labor must have been noticed by every general practitioner and oculist of the cities, and yet, so far as I know, none has publicly directed attention to this important fact. I have.had so many patients who have been made sick at these places of amusement that I now ask routine questions to elicit this etiologic factor. Not one had thought of the connection, so unobservant are
more » ... o unobservant are patients in such things, so uninstructed have they been left as regards the use of the eyes and sequent nervous and gastric disorders. "What were you doing the evening or afternoon previous to your headache or giddiness, or upset stomach?" "0, nothing at all," is the usual answer, "nothing out of the ordinary; I was at the movies for a couple of hours, and went to bed at once, as I was feeling bad." General physicians, oculists, opticians, gastrologists and neurologists should therefore be on their guard as to this new and unsuspected cause of certain acute functional disorders of which patients may complain. The symptoms do not, in my experience, differ essentially or greatly from those commonly caused by eyestrain of any kind, or from any variety of abuses of the eyes. The most common, of course, are headache, sick headache, migraine-that is, in one or several of its thousand protean forms. A few symptoms that are perhaps more frequent and emphasized than others are intense ocular and cerebral weariness, a sort of dazed. "good-for-nothing*' feeling, lack of energy, of appetite, etc., to which almost as frequently may be added, "upset stomach," even vomiting, sleepiness and other similar effects of ainctropia, bad spectacles, disifse of good ones, etc. If by wearing accurate corrections of ametropia the patient has previously been made, aware of their power to banish suffering of many kinds and intensities, he (or she) at once may think, "M'y glasses need changing." This, of course, may be true, but on consultai m with the oculist his discriminating questions as to^tbe cinematograph will bring out that especial cause as the chief one to he avoided. But if "the movies" are not to blame, or not solely to blame, then the good advice will follow that the correcting lenses will possibly enable the patient to go to these shows without the appearance of the distinctive symptoms. With uncorrected ametropia^t he*cinemr.l >graph will more certainly bring about migrainous and nervous symptoms in the patient than when good glasses are worn"because there is no doubt that the cinematograph pictures put a frightful task on even the least defective .eyes, whether glassed or not, but the strain is doubled by bad glasses, or by lack of glasses when they are needed. 'I'!"' retinal and cerebral exhaustion and reflexes at the picture shows have, or may have, several more or less distinctive factors. The ' expert who lias closely observed and analyzed Ihe morbid results ill himself will, of course, at once pounce on the chief source of Ihe mischief-the Jack of swiftness and accuracy in the sequence and superposition of the individual pictures thrown on tbe screen or mirror. The cinematograph has at least four major pathogenic faults: 1. Tbe fixation-point chosen by the eye and attention is, of itself, frequently unstable and tremulous or jerky in movement. This is brought to consciousness by observing attentively a fixed object in the picture) as a post, or tree. Both eye and mind are confused by this utterly unnatural movement. 2, The individual images of the screen-picture are often superposed so slowly that they are separately perceived instead of being fused into a continuum, or flowing unify. There results a swiftly passing series of slightly differing pictures on the retina instead of the desired continuity of one into another. Eye and brain have never had to endure such a series of disconnected stimuli as this unendurable fluttering. ;î. There is a ceaseless and exacting conflict between the parts or locations of the individual pictures demanding the attention of the eyes and of sensation which thus dance from one point to another of the ever-moving points of interest.
doi:10.1001/jama.1912.04270140058023 fatcat:hg2dpwkhavavhnqeyx6qfdlhby