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Unmasking the Mind: The Phineas Gage Case Study Revisited

Article By Danica Picyk

Phineas Gage is a well-recognized name that often arises in various psychological & neuroscientific findings. The case of Phineas Gage provides great insight & understandings on the role of certain brain structures and their functions pertaining to human personality.

During the 19th century, 25-year-old Phineas Gage worked as a railroad construction foreman south of Cavendish, Vermont. He was accredited for being the railroad company’s most capable employee due to his well-balanced mind and immense sense of leadership. While completing a job alongside fellow construction workers, a tamping iron rod was driven through his skull as a result of an explosion caused by gunpowder and increased friction. The iron rod shot through his skull, obliterating his left frontal lobe.

To the surprise of his fellow construction workers, Gage remained alive following the accident. It was noted by Gage’s family and peers, however, that he had become impulsive, irritable, and socially inappropriate following the accident. Medical professionals believed that the injury had altered Gage’s personality; his memory, cognition, and strength had not been altered, however, his personality had been. He was then described as someone who was disrespectful, rude, and unable to accept advice.

The sudden and vast change in Gage’s personality prompted the earliest pieces of evidence suggesting that damage to specific brain regions could result in personality and behavioral changes, implying that different brain structures and regions are responsible for different cognitive and behavioral functions.

Phineas Gage’s case further contributed to the understanding of brain localization and helped to develop a greater sense of understanding in regards to the role of the frontal lobes in personality and decision-making. His case further paved way for better understanding of topic brain topography in behavioral disorders, development of psychosurgery, and brain rehabilitation study.

Read more about Phineas Gage here:

Learn more about the Frontal Lobes:

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