Physiological regulations

Physiological regulations

Physiological regulations

Physiological regulations

Excerpt

"His body temperature is always the same; if it were not he would be sick." That empirical rule is rediscovered daily. To physiologists the rule is a challenge to seek further relations among bodily functions. How are the specific properties of an organism maintained? What sorts of processes are provided so that the temperature is not upset in a body subjected to twenty-fold increases in heat production and to winter's icy blasts?

Physiological regulations are patterns of processes; the outcome of all those operating characteristics that assure the constancy of a property such as body temperature. The creature's endowments are not merely material; activity is provided continuously. Of all the possible combinations of chemical velocities, physical responses, and organismal behaviors that are possible, those very ones prevail that fit into a scheme of self-perpetuation. This scheme is the object of investigation. The invisible pattern according to which in a given physiological state, whether of action or of rest, these particular velocities are operating and others not, constitutes regulation.

Physiology seems to me more than a science of individual working parts. I found it fun to compare the manners in which a kidney excretes various substances. But then I wondered whether there was some rhyme in the heights of the several thresholds and the hypertonicities of various urines. It next became obvious that measured ingestion saved excretion many a day's work. Evidently excretion is subservient to organism, a kidney to a body. The scale of renal clearances seems utterly arbitrary until one thinks of the millions of body cells that have to tolerate and even transform what the kidneys do not excrete.

At one time I supposed that the pattern of physiological research was fixed once for all. The newcomer merely went into more detail with modified apparatus. Now, I believe that fingers and levers are to be supplemented by concepts. There is no limit to the patterns of physiological investigation, for every concept adds a pattern of search. Physiology is more than a technology, more than information. It develops new aspects at every turn; as long as it lives it will include the unorthodox. The unorthodox of today becomes the standard of tomorrow; let no one make a . . .

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