THE GUY WITH THE RAILROAD SPIKE THROUGH HIS BRAIN?
lae2 at psu.edu
lae2 at psu.edu
Sat Aug 17 11:59:08 EST 1996
In Article<32128d1a.43394859 at news.premier.net>, <cogito at premier.net>
> >lori jones wrote:
> >> Can anyone give me info/details on the guy in the 19C who survived a
> >> spike through the brain? What was his name and where can I find out
> >> about his case? You can email me directly if you want to. Thanks
> >Science carried an article on the reconstruction of his brain
> >lesion from his exhumed skull and the preserved iron bar. This
> Phineas's injuries clearly demonstrate something termed, "frontal
> disinhibition." A term that encompases the dysfunction apparent in
> individuals with frontal lobe injuries (e.g., attention and
> concentration px., orienting response px., apparent lack of societal
> inhibition, planning difficulties, etc.).
> The article Bill refers to above was written by the Damasios, and
> involved the MRI recostruction of Phineas's skull (which, I believe is
> housed at Harvard Med. School Library). By extrapolating the injury
> site, the Damasios were better able to pin-point the brain injury
> Phineas suffered. I believe the main point of injury was the left
> orbitofrontal region, the "seat of volitional control" or as my
> advisor coins, "the place where the little man drives the bus."
Yet another significance of Gage's case in the history of
clinical/scientific thinking was the fact the he survived regardless of
any personality changes. Despite the attention given to the heart, the
prevailing belief was that the brain was vital to life. In fact, the
personality changes and other deleterious effects of Gage's lesion tended
to be ignored (except for the phrenologists setting up shop in
Philadelphia). Some have speculated/known that Gage suffered
increasingly severe epileptic episodes up to the time of his death in San
The fact that Gage survived his injury paved the road leading up to
psychosurgery. The findings of Kluver Bucy established the "End of
Construction" sign. For better or worse, a new mode of personality
therapy involving surgical interventions and the brain was established.
Of course, there are other interpretations as to the significance of
Gage's injury. Regardless, the injury and the wave it stirred within the
personality/clinical world are fascinating. The original records of the
event are worth reading.
I suspect that the Jefferson Medical College library would have a wealth
of information on the history and significance of the incidence.
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