- The term automatisme was introduced in or shortly before 1846 by the French alienist Jules Gabriel François Baillarger (1806-1891). It comes from the Greek adjective automatos, which means automatically or driven by a power of its own. Baillarger used the term automatism to denote a class of hallucinations mediated by the sense organs. Thus Baillarger's notion of automatism is compatible with what is now called an * entoptic phenomenon - with the restriction, of course, that the notion of entoptic phenomenon refers to the visual modality alone, whereas the term automatism can be related to any of the sensory modalities. The term automatism is also used in a broader sense to denote sensory as well as motor phenomena that are generated unconsciously. Motor phenomena like these were designated by the British classical scholar, writer, and poet Frederic Myers (1843-1901) as motor automatisms. Myers characterized the sensory phenomena as * sensory automatisms. As he wrote in a book published posthumously in 1903, "The products of inner vision or inner audition externalised into quasi-percepts, - these form what I term sensory automatisms. The messages conveyed by movement of limbs or hands or tongue, initiated by an inner motor impulse beyond the conscious will - these are what I term motor automatisms." Sensory automatisms can manifest themselves in the form ofhallucina-tions, * illusions, * dream images, and * hypnagogic or * hypnopompic phenomena, all of which are experienced by the affected individual as controlled, guided, or summoned by an alien force. In 1954 the Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Graves Penfield (1891-1976) suggested that automatisms, referred to by him as * psychomotor automatisms, may be evoked by local epileptic discharge in the prefrontal or temporal cortex spreading to the diencephalon (i.e. the higher brainstem). He was careful to point out that in order to evoke an attack of automatism, the epileptic activity involved should confine itself to the part of the diencephalon associated with consciousness, leaving the so-called automatic sensory-motor mechanism unaffected. As Penfield wrote, "When a local discharge occurs in prefrontal or temporal areas of the cortex, it may spread directly to the highest brain-mechanism by bombardment (the mind's mechanism). When it does this, it produces automatism." And, "So it is that the mechanism in the higher brain-stem, whose action is indispensable to the very existence of consciousness, can be put out of action selectively! This converts the individual into a mindless automaton." Conceptually, this explanatory model for attacks of automatism is related to Jackson's conception of the * dreamy state. In the parapsychological literature, the group of sensory automatisms is also believed to include * apparitions, inspirations, and cases of * clairvoyance or *clairaudience. The eponym * Zingerle's automatosis refers to a syndrome involving closely connected hallucinatory and motor phenomena.ReferencesBaillarger, J. (1846). Untitled document on hallucinations. In: Mémoires de l'Académie Royale de Médecine, XII, p. 469.Myers, F.W.H. (1903). Human personality and its survival of bodily death. Volume I. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.Penfield, W. (1975). The mystery of the mind. A critical study ofconsciousness and the human brain. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Guily, R.E. (1991). Harper's encyclopedia of mystical and paranormal experience.New York, NY: Castle Books.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.