General principles of the central functions

In the 1902 edition of Principles of Physiological Psychology, Wundt focused on the central functions, or the central nervous system. In discussing the research and experimentation that led to his conclusions, Wundt presented what he termed, "General principles of the central functions."

The five general principles that Wundt explained were:

• the principle of connection of elements

• the principle of original indifference of functions

• the principle of practice and adaptation

• the principle of vicarious function

• the principle of relative localization

Principle of connection of elements Explanation Wundt classified his approach to understanding the nervous system in three different ways: anatomical, physiological, and psychological. In terms of anatomy, the system was made up of many elements that were closely connected to one another. The nerve cells, or neurons, were controlled by the cell processes. The results of the cell processes often provided clues as to the directions in which the connections are made, Wundt noted. This principle also indicated that every physiological activity was also the sum of many functions, even if the researcher is unable to separate those functions from the whole and from the organism's complex behavior. Again, as with the other two perspectives, Wundt's described "physical" or psychological contents indicated that each of the complicated nerve processes can be broken down into its basic elements, all of which react in cooperation to create the whole. The indicators of this structure are found in the process of psychological observation itself, Wundt noted, and the fact that any psychical process imaginable—no matter how simple—must have arisen from a large group of interconnected pieces, or elements.

Examples As an example of the anatomical sense of the connection element, Wundt offered that "the merit of the 'neurone theory' to have shown how this principle of the connection of elements is exhibited in the morphological relations of the central nervous system." The example that he used for the physiological aspect was that every sensation or muscular contraction are really complex processes that can be analyzed as the activities of a lot of different parts—the act of standing up out of a chair, for instance, is not one movement, but the result of many different steps that produce the result of standing. In the psychological view, Wundt noted that the "arousal of light or tone," is not simply the

"action of stimulus upon the peripheral structures, but also and invariably the processes of nervous conduction, the excitations of central elements in the mesencephalic region, and finally certain processes in the cortical centers." As in the case of memory images, Wundt explained, it is the coordination center that is first involved in the activity, and subsequently the peripheral region.

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