Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Reaction-time in abnormal conditions of the nervous system
Nadler, Alfred G.
Alfred G. Nadler, M.D. 
The object of the present research was to'investigate the possible alter¬ 
ations in reaction-time and thought-time in diseased conditions of the 
nervous system. The experiments were performed upon individuals ex¬ 
hibiting symptoms diagnostic of one of four types of diseases. The sub¬ 
jects were patients applying at the University Clinic. The four types 
selected were neuritis, hysteria, locomotor ataxia and allied conditions, 
and alcoholism. 
The experiments were performed on a Scripture pendulum-chrono- 
scope, which consists of a pendulum, a pointer, a scale, a signal and a 
reaction-apparatus.1 The pendulum is held at one side by a catch ; when 
set free, it travels across the scale. As it passes the zero point it sets in 
motion and carries with it the pointer ; the scale is divided into thous¬ 
andths of a second, the pendulum and pointer being so arranged that one 
second elapses while the pointer travels from o to 1000. As it passes the 
zero point the pendulum springs a catch which gives the signal to the 
subject. This individual, all prepared, with a finger on the reaction but¬ 
ton, presses the button in response to the signal. This locks the pointer 
against the scale at whatsoever point it happens to be. The experimenter 
has then only to read off the mark on the scale at which the pointer is set. 
For simple reaction-time, the opening of a shutter on the signal board 
was the signal ; for complex reaction-time red or white cards were indis¬ 
criminately inserted behind the shutter and the subject reacted only when 
the red card was seen. 
The simple reaction consisted in this case psychologically of percep- * 
tion and volition, physiologically of the passage of a nervous impulse 
from the eye to the visual center in the brain, then to the arm center and 
downward to the muscles of the arm and hand, The complex reaction¬ 
time adds to this the two mental processes : discrimination between the 
■Scripture, Some new apparatus, Stud. Yale Psych. Lab., 1895 III 98. The 
mean error of this instrument is two thousandths of a second ; the mean variations of the 
records are therefore psychological quantities ; see ScRirTURE, New Psychology, 142, 
London, 1897. 


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