Phineas Gage Discussion
Please read the following and give the prompt a full and complete answer.
Here are the facts:“The fateful day was 13 September 1848. Phineas Gage was a25-year-old man working for a rail-building company; he was foreman of agang of men employed in blowing away rock to clear the way for a newstretch of rail. On that day, he was laying explosives for anotherblast. But things went wrong. While he was tamping it with the blunt endof a sharply pointed iron bar, he got distracted and the explosive wentoff. The 13 1⁄4 -pound iron, over 3 1⁄2 feet (1.05 m) long and 1 3⁄4inch (44.45 mm) in diameter, pierced Gage’s head. It entered beneath hisleft cheek, passed behind the eye, pierced the base of the skull, wentthrough the front of the brain, and fell on the ground over 100 feet(30.4 m) away, covered in blood and brains.Most extraordinarily, Gage did not even lose consciousness. He ‘wasthrown upon his back’, exhibited ‘a few convulsive motions of theextremities’ (Macmillan, 2002: 415) and within a few minutes spoke.“This does not seem very different from a boxer recovering after a heavyknockout. He was taken by cart to the local town. During the journey hesat erect and on arrival got out of the cart himself, with just alittle assistance from his workmates. On meeting the doctor who was toattend to him, he is supposed to have said, ‘Doctor, here is businessenough for you’, which surely rates as one of the great understatementsof all time. And while the gaping wound was being dressed (‘thepulsations of the brain [were] very distinct’ [ibid.: 415]), Gagerecounted the accident to him (Kotowicz, 2007).Before the injury, Gage was described as mentally“well-balanced” which typically means thoughtful, self-regulated andemotionally self-controlled. He was a foreman in charge of a large crewof workers and was well liked by his employer and his men. He wasthought of as an intelligent and capable businessman, very energetic andpersistent in carrying out his plans.After the accident, his behavior changed. For example,routinely he used vulgar language. He didn’t seem to care about theeffect of his behavior on those around him. He did not want to acceptthe advice of others, was described as stubborn but capricious meaninghe changed his mind at any whim. It may be that the brain injury causedthese changes in his personality, but there may be another explanation.Before a verified photograph of Gage had been identified,researchers used computer simulation to depict his injuries. Prior tothe accident, he was described as very handsome, tall (for thehistorical period), and charming. The pictures below were painstakinglycreated using a man who meets Gage’s description and an image of thetamping rod. The second and third pictures were made with specializedcomputer software to depict the probable appearance of Phineas Gageafter healing from his wounds.Based on the facts of this case summary, can you think of analternate explanation for the changes in Gage’s behavior after theaccident?
SourcesDamasio, H., Grabowski, T., Frank, R., Galaburda, A. M., &Damassio, A. R. (20 May 1994). The return of Phineas Gage: Clues aboutthe brain from the skull of a famous patient. Science, 1102.Kotowicz, Z. (2007). The Strange Case of Phineas Gage. History of the Human Sciences, 115 – 131.Macmillan, M. (2002). An odd kind of fame: Stories of Phineas Gage. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
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