About Phineas Gage Essay

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Phineas Gage was a survivor of a horrific injury to the frontal lobes in an industrial accident in 1848. His subsequent personality change provides some of the earliest evidence for the role of the frontal cortex in mental activity. Gage was working as a construction foreman for the Rutland and Burlington Railroad, rock blasting for a new railway line in Vermont. An accidental explosion drove a tamping iron, 3 cm (1¼ in) in diameter and 109 cm (45 in) long, through Gage's head. It entered at the left cheek, passed upwards through the brain and exited the skull through the frontal bone close to the midline. Reconstruction of the injury from damage to the skull using modern neuroimaging techniques suggests that the ventral and medial areas of the prefrontal cortex, including the anterior cingulate gyri, were extensively damaged in both cerebral hemispheres (Damasio et al. 1994). Gage regained consciousness almost immediately and although he was debilitated for a time by infection he eventually recovered his physical health. Before the accident he had been conscientious, well socialized, and was said to have a shrewd business sense. His employers considered him the 'most efficient and capable' of their workers. The injury left him with no impairment of movement or speech, and his learning, memory, and natural intelligence seemed to be only partially impaired. However, his personality and mood had undergone severe changes. He had become irreverent, impatient, profane, irresponsible, insensitive to others, and unable to stick to plans he made for himself (Macmillan 2000). From 1851 until 1859 he worked in a relatively menial capacity in livery stables, looking after horses and driving coaches. He died after developing epilepsy in 1860 and was buried without a post-mortem examination of his

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