Editorials

1880 Boston Medical and Surgical Journal  
Yale, who occupied the chair during this autumnal session, read a paper on the dimensions of the brain and spinal cord in some extinct reptiles, in the course of which he spoke of the special interest which attached to the stegosaurus, a mammoth reptile, the remains of which he had discovered in Colorado. Five years ago Professor Marsh presented some observations to the academy which indicated that the more remote the period to which any extinct mammal belonged the smaller would the brain be
more » ... nd, and that as time advanced there had been a gradual increase in the size of the brain ; this growth being mainly noticeable in the cerebral or intellectual portion. At the spring session, in April last, he showed that in birds and reptiles also the same law held good. Since then he has examined skeletons of the stegosaurus, unearthed in the Rocky Mountains, which, with a body as large as that of an alligator (some of the skeletons measuring thirty feet in length), had a brain cavity no larger than that of a dog. The peculiar characteristic discovered about this reptile, however, is the existence ill the sacral portion of the spinal column of an enormous vaulted chamber, like an ordinary brain-box, which is from eight to ten times larger than the brain cavity in the cranium. Professor Marsh examined a number of these skeletons, and found the same thing in all of them, and as, ordinarily, the young animal has a brain proportionately larger than that of the grown animal, so here in the skeleton of the young reptile this peculiar cavity is proportionately larger than in the full-sized skeletons. Professor Marsh has never seen anything analogous to this anomaly in any of the land vertebrates. This is certainly a very curious discovery, the complete explanation of which it may be quite difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at in our present state of knowledge. At the last meeting of the American Neurological Association, Dr. J. J. Mason, of Newport, reported a series of observations on animals, which seemed to establish the general law that in all vertebrates the diameters of the nuclei of the cells in the inferior horns in the two enlargements of the spinal cord are proportional to the muscular power of the corresponding extremities ; the nucleus of each motor cell apparently increasing in size with the growth o£ the muscular structure which it serves to innervate. Thus in the frog, with its powerful posterior extremities, the nuclei of the cells of the lumbar enlargement are found to be much larger than those of the cervical enlargement ; while in the gopher turtle the reverse of this is true. Now if such a law held good in regard to the gross size of the enlargements of the spiual cord, it might possibly throw some light upon the subject, since this gigantic extinct reptile is described to be something like an elongated kangaroo in shape ; but even then the enormous size of the sacral cavity as compared with that of the cranium would be by no means sufficiently explained, there being no other known extinct or living animal in which such a formation is found to exist. Professor Marsh, without attempting to arrive at any definite conclusion in regard to the matter, suggested that this curious phenomenon of a " posterior brain-box " might perhaps afford some support to the idea which has been advocated in certain quarters of late, that the whole nervous system, and not the brain alone, may possibly be the seat of the mind. In this connection it may perhaps be remembered that some time ago Dr. Hammond read a paper before the Medical Society of the County of New York on the functions of the spinal cord as a seat of voluntary action, in the course of which he related a number of interesting and suggestive experiments and observations, which seemed, according to the inferences which he deduced from them, to lend a certain amount of weight to such a supposition. ADULTERATION OP FOODS AND DRUGS. The committee composed of Dr. . J. In connection with their award the committee submit the following remarks among others : -(1.) In view of the statements which for the last two or three years have, from time to time, been made with regard to the prevalence in this country of adulterations of food which are dangerous to health and life, and which have created so much agitation in the public mind, it is very gratifying to find that none of the essayists produce any definite or satisfactory evidence as to the wide-spread existence of such dangerous adulterations in this country. The absence of such evidence, in addition to the results recently ob-79
doi:10.1056/nejm188012231032608 fatcat:2m7wz5e22zdxfkfjq4ieaquz3q