Biographies de neurologues
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 L'histoire des neurosciences à La Pitié et à La Salpêtrière J Poirier
The history of neurosciences at La Pitié and La Salpêtrière J Poirier 

mise à jour du
6 avril 2008
Monthly gazette of health
London, 1816-1832
Yawning and asthma
Jemmy Tissue Ego
a letter to the editor
The monthly gazette of health


gazette of health
My Dear Sirs,
The spirited manner in which you have supported the dignity of the medical profession, has encouraged me to acquaint you with the extraordinary effects of yawning in terminating instantaneously a fit of asthma, for the benefit of those who may be subject to that most distressing affection. Suspecting, from a sense of constriction about the windpipe, which came on as I was walking up the Haymarket, that a fit of asthma, to which I am subject on very slight occasions, was coming on, I went to the reading room of Messrs. Burgess and Hill, in Great Windmill Street, with the intention of remaining them till it bad run its course. To amuse my mind I took ups work which was lying on a table before me. lt proved to be a "Quarterly Journal, edited by a Dr. James Johnson." After going through some pages, I was seized with a violent fit of yawning, which most effectually removed every asthmatic symptom.
The great freedom of breathing, which so suddenly followed a sensation of suffocation, greatly astonished me; after a little reflection I was convinced that the happy result was the consequence of bringing into action, during yawning, the muscles which are opposed to those which are spasmodically affected in asthma. In this opinion I was confirmed, on recollecting the advice given by Mr Abernethy, many years ego, in case of cramp, to bring the antagonist muscles into action. On reopening the Journal to which I was indebted for this most important discovery, the first article which caught my eves, was a letter from Dr. George Pearson, a licentiate of the London College of Physicianis, to Dr. James Johnson, complimenting him for "his admirable exposition and judicious pathotogy of apoplexy."
"Notwithstanding," says this learned Dr. Pearson, "the minute researches published by Dr Abercrombie and yourself, unless I have overlooked the record, the important pathological fact, the ossifed condition of the cerebral arteries, especially the carotids, has been omitted." This letter, with the knowledge I have of the writer and his learned friend, unfortunately excited an involuntary fit of laughter, that brought on a slight asthmatic paroxysm, which I certainly terminated by having recourse to yawning. To term the carotids, cerrbral arteries, is in the first place ridiculous, and the supposition that ossification of arteries of the brain is capable of producing apoplexy, is preposterous in the extreme. Apoplexy is the consequence of compression of brain, either from effusion of blood or over distension of blood vessels. The size of an ossified artery is never increased to that degree as to compress the brain, so as to disturb its functions, and its power of dilatation being destroyed by it, the compression of brain is probably more diminished than increased by the change; at any rate the coats of the artery are so strengthened by the deposit of ossific matter, as effectually to prevent rupture, and, consequently, the species of apoplexy, which generally terminates fatally, viz. from effusion of blood. It is common to find ossification of arteries within the skull of elderly people, who died of apoplexy; but it is equally as common to finit this state of arteries of the brain in elderly people who have died of other diseases, particularly of asthma.
The case is, that this change in the coats of arteries is the effect of age, and has nothing more to do with apoplexy than the loss of teeth. Besides, the blood which is effused in cases of apoplexy, is venous and not arterial blood, and when it is produced by distension of vessols, it is of veins or sinuses, and not of arteries. These fact, I presume, the learned Dr. Pearaon will not deny, if the reflecting organ of his brain be free from ossified arteries. I have read all that has appeared from the pens of Dr. Abercrombie and Dr. Johnson, on apoplexy (for which you will give me credit for possessing an unusual share of patience), without being able to discover any thing like a new idea; and as Dr. Pearson has thought proper to compliment those writers on the light they have thrown on the pathology of the disease, I shall be greatly obliged to him or any other person, to point out the information which is not to be found to the works of the moderns. Doctor Johnson, in a note to Dr. Person's letter, observe, that ossification of arteries was noticed by him among the exciting causes of apoplexy!! What a curious idea of exciting causes of disease! Supposing that ossification of arteries (a disease which advances very slowly), was capable of producing apoplexy, how can it operate as the exciting cause? Now the meaning of all this is, that Dr. George Pearson is a candidate for a fellowship in the College of Physician, and Dr. James Johnson has matriculated at Paris, in order to qualify himself to become a candidite for a college licence. The members of the college, must therefore be complimented. Here I must stop, with a promise to send for your next number, some very interesting, or rather amusing, intelligence from Paris, with an analytical exposé of the Quarterly Journal, its editor, the advertised list of subscribers, &c. The system of literary quackery, puffing, book-making, new modes of getting subscribers, and obtaining panegyrical reviews, which I shall fully expose, has been too successfully carried on in this country fur many years, to the great injury of the medical profession.
I am, my dear Sirs, Your very obedient servant, Jemmy Tissue Ego, MD.
Author of a Treatise on Atmospheric Phenomena, and many other scientific works, Member of several learned Societies, late Surgeon of a Guinea slave ship, &c. &c. &c. Humbug House, Spring Gardens.
P. S. I hop. the asthmatics who may give Yawning a trial, will favour me, through the medium of your excellent work, with its effects. I assure them, that I have (ound it exceeedingly beneficial; but I am, as all asthmatics are, an Idiosyncrasist, and therefore, what agrees with me, may disagree with, another. A "certain great personage," I am credibly informed, requires to be read to sleep every night, and such is the peculiarity of his nervous system, that only one person can do it efectually,-viz. Sir W. Kun, Bart. MD. For this purpose he attends at the bedside of his patient every night, and so successful has he been, that he is denominated the Royal" Nightmare."