Galvanism is a form of medical treatment that uses electrical pulses to provoke contractions in body tissue. In the 1780s and 1790s, Luigi Galvani conducted electricity experiments on dissected animals, and believed that he had discovered a distinct form of electricity which he called animal electricity. The experiments have since been conducted and confirmed by later philosophers.
The study of medical electricity and its effects is now known as electrophysiology, and is only called Galvanism in the historical sense. The term also refers to bringing life to organisms via electrical current, such as what was used in the book Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.
The effects of Galvanism were first discovered by accident. The wife of Galvani, then a professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna, occasionally enjoyed a soup made of frogs in order to promote health and strength. The animals, skinned and prepared for the delicacy were lying on the table in the laboratory, near an electric machine. One of Galvani’s assistants brought the scalpel near the crural nerve of the frog and the muscles were set in motion instantaneously, agitated by the convulsions.
Experiments were later conducted on humans. Matthew Clydesdale, a murderer that had recently been in killed himself, had his corpse subjected to electrical experiments. On the November 4, 1818 at Glasgow University, Professor Jeffray, noted that as the electrical current was applied, the corpse’s jaw began to quiver, the muscles contorted, and his left eye opened. The scientist went on to further detail their experiment, describing precisely the amount of Galvanic actions that were used, how they had prepared the corpse, where the experiment took place, and specific descriptions of the actions of the body.
In 1906 Carl Jung published the book “Studies in Word Analysis,” which described a technique for connecting a subject with electrodes on their hands to a resistance measuring device. They were then read a list of words. If one of the words incited emotions, a change was noted in the body. Jung used the experiment to observe the changes on the meter he had created to monitor which lines of questioning aroused a response.
Once these experiments proved successful and informative, criminologists looked upon the machines with enthusiasm. The meters and the method that Jung had developed is today known as a “lie detector” and are used frequently in interrogations and investigations.
In the 1970′s, biofeedback research became popular, and it was used in methods of relaxations and meditation. It is a technique to self-regulate, and measures a person’s awareness. Volney Mathison pioneered the development of theories based on the fact that feelings, fears, thoughts and emotions are electrical. Mathison concluded, by using the lie detectors, that past events can produce a change in mood, and the meter will react in response to the mood or feeling response.
Electrophysiology measures the voltage change or electrical current that flows on a wide variety of scales from a single ion channel to whole tissues. The measurements include electrical activity of neurons, and potential activity. These methods have familiar names, and are used frequently today in the medical community: