In diseased states of the nervous system these variations of sensibility become much more striking. The patient who has hyperaesthesia fears to touch a perfectly smooth surface, or he takes a knock at the door to be a clap of thunder. The hypochondriac may, through an increase of organic sensibility, translate organic sensations as the effect of some living creature gnawing at his vitals. Again, states of anaesthesia lead to odd illusions among the insane. The common supposition that the body is dead, or made of wood or of glass, is clearly referable in part to lowered sensibility of the organism.
It is worth adding, perhaps, that these variations in sensibility give rise not only to sensory but also to motor illusions. To take a homely instance, the last miles of a long walk seem much longer than the first, not only because the sense of fatigue leading us to dwell on the transition of time tends to magnify the apparent duration, but because the fatigued muscles and connected nerves yield a new set of sensations which constitute an exaggerated standard of measurement. A number of optical illusions illustrate the same thing. Our visual sense of direction is determined in part by the feelings accompanying the action of the ocular muscles, and so is closely connected with the perception of movement, which has already been touched on. If an ocular muscle is partially paralyzed it takes a much greater “effort” to effect a given extent of movement than when the muscle is sound. Hence any movement performed by the eye seems exaggerated. Hence, too, in this condition objects are seen in a wrong direction; for the patient reasons that they are where they would seem to be if he had executed a wider movement than he really has. This may easily be proved by asking him to try to seize the object with, his hand. The effect is exaggerated when complete paralysis sets in, and no actual movement occurs in obedience to the impulse from within.
Variations in the condition of the nerve affect not only the degree, but also the quality of the sensation, and this fact gives rise to a new kind of illusion. The curious phenomena of colour-contrast illustrate momentary alterations of sensibility. When, after looking at a green colour for a time, I turn my eye to a grey surface and see this of the complementary rose-red hue, the effect is supposed to be due to a temporary fatigue of the retina in relation to those ingredients of the total light in the second case which answer to the partial light in the first (the green rays).
These momentary modifications of sensibility are of no practical significance, being almost instantly corrected. Other modifications are more permanent. It was found by Himly that when the retina is overexcitable every stimulus is raised in the spectrum scale of colours. Thus, violet becomes red. An exactly opposite effect is observed when the retina is torpid. Certain poisons are known to affect the quality of