The Curious Case of Phineas Gage

Question: Why is Phineas Gage so important to psychology?

Adam Kepecs:  So there is this very interesting story about Phineas Gage.  He lived in the 1800’s and the horrible accident happened to him during construction.  A very large iron rod just went through and pierced his skull and he miraculously survived and what was amazing about it, not just his survival, but that he was still human.  He could reason.  His intellect didn’t seem to change, but something changed.  His personality was different and his decision making skills and that was one of the first pieces of evidence that scientists had about the localization of these different functions and today with much more evidence and much more specific lesion studies we actually have a lot of evidence pointing to the fact that a part of the frontal lobe that was damaged in Phineas Gage, the orbital frontal cortex is key to decision making.

 

The iconic abnormal psych case of Phineas Gage provided scientists with the first hints that different functions like decision-making and language acquisition were grouped into localized areas within the brain.

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