psychomotor automatism

psychomotor automatism
   The term psychomotor automatism comes from the Greek noun psuchè (life breath, spirit, soul, mind), the Latin noun motio (movement), and the Greek adjective automatos (automatically, driven by a power of its own). It was introduced in or shortly before 1954 by the Canadian neu-roscientists Wilder Graves Penfield (1891-1976) and Herbert Henri Jasper (1906-1999) to denote a period of confused behaviour with amnesia. Penfield and Jasper employ the term psychomotor automatism in the context of their classification of *psychical states in opposition to the terms *psychical hallucination and *psychical illusion. Psychomotor automatisms are not classified as hallucinations, but as their equivalent in the sphere of motor movements. Penfield suggests that psychomotor automatisms may be evoked by local epileptic discharge in the pre-frontal or temporal cortex spreading to the dien-cephalon (i.e. the higher brainstem). He is careful to point out that in order to evoke an attack of automatism, the epileptic activity must be confined to the part of the diencephalon associated with consciousness, leaving the so-called automatic sensory-motor mechanism unaffected. As he asserts, "When a local discharge occurs in pre-frontal 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 is related to Jackson's conception of the * dreamy state. For a further explanation see the entries Automatism and Dreamy state.
   Mullan, S., Penfield, W. (1959). Illusion of comparative interpretation and emotion. Archives ofNeurology and Psychiatry, 81, 269-284.
   Penfield, W., Jasper, H. (1954). Epilepsy and the functional anatomy ofthe human brain. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

Dictionary of Hallucinations. . 2010.

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