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Temperature of water.
Time occupied in passage of
26° 32° 42° 65° 75° 85°
Or,adopting again thegraphic method of statement, these variations may be represented as follows:
Submitting a contractile strip to slight strains has also the effect of retarding the rate of the waves while they pass through the portions of the strip which have been submitted to strain. The method of straining which I adopted was to pass my finger below the strip, and then, by raising my hand, to bring a portion of the strip slightly above the level of the water. The irritable or contractile surface was kept uppermost, and therefore suffered a gentle strain; for the weight of the tissue on either side of the finger made the upper surface somewhat convex. By passing the finger all the way along
the strip in this way, the latter might be gently strained throughout its entire length, the degree of straining being determined by the height out of the water to which the tissue was raised. if the strip is too greatly strained, the contractionwaves become blocked altogether, as described above; but shortly before this degree of straining was reached, I could generally observe that the rate of the waves was diminished. To give one instance, a contractile strip measuring twenty-two inches had the rate of its waves taken before and after straining of the kind described. The result was follows:
One second ...
Immediately after severe handling of this kind, the retardation of contraction-waves, is sometimes even more marked than here represented; but I think this may be partly due to shock, for on giving the tissue a little while to recover, the rate of the waves becomes slightly increased.
Anæsthetics likewise have the effect of slowing the rate of contraction-waves before blocking them. Taking, for instance, the case of chloroform, a narrow spiral strip between one and two feet long was immersed in sea-water containing a large dose of the anæsthetic; the observations being taken at six seconds' intervals, the following were the results :
In such experiments, the recovery of the normal rate in unpoisoned water is gradual. Taking, for instance, the case of a spiral strip in
spiral strip in morphia (Fig. 19), it will be seen that the original rate did not fully return. Some substances, however, exert a more marked permanent effect of this kind than do weak solutions of morphia. Here, for instance, is an experiment with alcohol (see Fig. 20).
In normal water
exposure to moi pbia One minute after strength.
ening dose .. Four minutes later, and
just before blocking of
wave... Fifteen seconds later, wave
continuing blocked Immediately after passage
of wave on restoration to normal sea-water
For minutes later
Quarter of an hour later...
An hour later
From these experiments, however, it must not be definitely concluded that it is the anæsthesiating property of such substances which exerts this slowing and blocking influence on contraction-waves, for I find that almost any foreign substance, whether or not an anæsthetic, will do the same. That nitrite of amyl, caffein, etc., should do so, one would not be very surprised to hear; but it might not so readily be expected that strychnine, for instance, should block contraction-waves; yet it does so, even in doses so small as only just to taste bitter. Nay, even fresh water completely blocks contractionwaves after the strip has been exposed to its influence for about half an hour, and exerts a permanently slowing effect after the tissue is restored to sea-water. These facts show the extreme sensitiveness of the neuro-muscular tissues of the Medusæ to any change in the character of their surrounding medium, a sensitiveness which we shall again have occasion to comment upon when treating of the effects of poisons.
In conclusion, I may mention an interesting fact which is probably connected with the summation of stimuli before explained. When a contractile strip is allowed to rest for a minute or more, and when a wave is then made to traverse it, careful observation will show that the passage of the first wave is slower than that of its successor, provided the latter follows the former after not too great an interval of time. The difference, however, is exceedingly slight, so that to render it apparent at all the longest possible strips must be used, and even then the experimenter may fail to detect the difference, unless he has been accustomed to signalling, by which method all these observations on rate have to be made.
Stimulus-waves. The rate of transmission of tentacular waves is only one-half that of contraction-waves, viz. nine inches a second. This fact appeared to me very remarkable in view of the consideration that the tentacular wave is the optical expression of a stimulus-wave, and that there can be no conceivable use in a stimulus-wave being able to pass through contractile tissue independently of a contractionwave, unless the former is able to travel more rapidly than the latter; for the only conceivable use of the stimulus-wave is to establish physiological harmony between different parts of the organism, and if this wave cannot travel more rapidly than a contraction-wave which starts from the same point, it would clearly fail to perform this function.