In one of the most important scientific triumphs of recent times, Dr. Robert S. Schwab "26, assistant in Neurology at the Medical School, has devised a new machine to discover just what goes on during a petit-mal epileptic fit both inside and outside a patient's head.
The agouized girl shown here is completely unconscious in a petit-mal epileptic fit, as the violent nature of the brain waves recorded in the moving picture indicates.
Makes Diagnosis Possible
Both the brain-waves and the girl's facial expressions are reproduced on the same motion picture film and shown to medical experts, who can then often make startling diagnoses which would otherwise take weeks of observation in a hospital, according to Dr. Schwab.
Facial expressions and hand motions during a petit-mal fit are of interest because they give valuable information on the region of the brain which is causing the trouble.
Not at All Violent
A petit-mal fit is not at all violent, but the patient becomes entirely unconscious for about a minute. This is of course very dangerous at times.
Brain-waves are the best indication of the exact time at which a patient starts to have the fit. During a fit they are large and regular, while normally they are small and irregular.
Contrary to common belief, waves do not reveal intelligence, or even what the subject has on his mind. When the patient was asked to think of the most obscene joke he know of, his brain waves showed not the slightest variations.
Dr. Schwab's laboratory at the Massachusetts General Hospital is filled with electrical medical, and photographic apparatus. He has mares of long cable to carry brain waves from room to room. The patient is isolated and insulated in a compartment sorrounded by wire screens to keep out electrical and other disturbances.
Tug-Boat Whistle Used
In order to scare the patient out of a fit Dr. Schwab has rigged up a purloined tug-boat whistis near the patient. When this whistle blows, the patient is quits effectively scared back into consciousness.
Dr. Schwab has made other electroencephalographic observation in coordination with electro myograms. The latest field of experiment is the determination of the connection of petit-mal epileptic fits with the rate of breathing.
It is Dr. Schwab's firm belief that such fits can be definitely cured or at least greatly diminished