Phineas Gage

| Science and technology | 2 Comments

Way back in the year 1848 there was this construction foreman named Phineas Gage. His job was to lead a gang of workers in digging out a pass through the mountains for the railroad in Vermont. This was done by using heavy dynamite. One day poor Phineas was unexpectedly caught off guard when an explosion went off prematurely. This long metal rod used to tamp down the pieces of dynamite in the drilled holes flew upwards like a rocket launched into the sky. The heavy javelin-shaped structure pierced his skull, entered a point just below his left eye, went clean through his brain and exited out the top of his head.

The amazing thing is that he survived, even though a huge portion of his frontal lobe had in an instant been removed completely. A brand-new person, but not quite, this poor man at the prime of his life.

So whatever happened to poor Phineas afterall? Well, he survived just fine and at least appeared to function normally in many "rational" ways. Like doing mathematical calculations, reciting complex tasks, remembering names and dates, no problem with these kind of things. However, he seemed to have lost complete control of his emotional side, or rather he had no emotional side left over. Phineas became an unbearable person with whom to be. He was extremely asocial, cussed and screamed alot for no obvious reason. Quoting from an account by Dr. Harlow: "the equilibrium or balance, so to speak, between his intellectual faculty and animal propensities had been destroyed."

So it seems that the brain is organized in such a way that emotion cannot be logically separated from even the most so-called rational decisions we make in everyday life. Even the most basic objective and factual thoughts are connected to some underlying form of emotional wave patterns. To say the least.

All this is inspired by the following book which I am reading with much pleasure and philosophical back-slaps: "Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain" by Antonio R. Damasio.

If you are interested in investigating this subject about the human mind in more detail then I can recommend you check out one or more of the following links:

2 Comments

This info was very helpful to me. I am writing a paper on Phineas. I will be sure to come back and visit when I need some more info on others.

Thanks again!

Glad I could help you.

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This personal weblog was started way back on July 21, 2001 which means that it is 7-21-2001 old.

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Graduated from Stanford 6-5-1979 ago.

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