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"no longer Gage"
May 17, 2012 8:28 AM   Subscribe

UCLA neuroscientists have reconstructed Phineas Gage's head injury and mapped out how his brain was affected by the tamping rod that went through it. You can read the full scientific article here. Phineas Gage has become one of the most famous cases in the history of science. A railroad worker who survived having an iron rod go through his brain with subsequent changes in personality. Malcolm McMillan of Deakin University, Australia, has the great Phineas Gage Information Page, which includes his story and a page on unanswered questions. [Phineas Gage previously on MeFi]
posted by Kattullus (19 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
"no longer Gage"

I guess prior to the incident, he would have just been standard Gage?

*puts on sunglasses*
posted by gauche at 8:50 AM on May 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


Also, can somebody explain the second "connectogram" in the first article to me? At a glance, I should have thought that it was showing the loss of inter-connectivity by comparison to the average healthy brain, but the article suggests (I think) that lines of the second one indicate connections lost in the incident rather than connections made. Am I missing something?
posted by gauche at 8:55 AM on May 17, 2012


Neato! Thanks for posting. My boss does brain network analysis. I wish the authors had written more about the measures, since path length, efficiency and small worldness aren't generally very well understood.
posted by Mrs.Spiffy at 8:56 AM on May 17, 2012


Phineas Gage is my favourite historical hottie.
posted by elizardbits at 9:10 AM on May 17, 2012


FYI, his skull and the tamping iron are on display in the library at Harvard Med School. This is a random, awesome, strange discovery I made during employee orientation at my first job.
posted by maryr at 9:15 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here is the story of Phineas Gage, in song form. (from Hank Green, of the vlogbrothers)
posted by jcreigh at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2012


I know the guy who did a lot of those visuals at UCLA (the best ones, like the one on the right here). He's a computer animator who did work on some big films and then came to work at this lab.

It's pretty cool when academia can randomly attract talent like that. They can't possibly be paying him anything like what he's worth.
posted by gurple at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2012


Phineas Gage is my favourite historical hottie.

Sadly, he took "if it was any longer, it would poke me in the eye" a tad too literally....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just saw this in the news. On the one hand it's always a little tiring to see the same mega-cases rolled out again and again (Gage and H.M. and a couple others), but on the other hand, this is awesome.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:53 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Beyond the obvious importance of correcting the record of a much-cited case, Macmillan writes, "Phineas' story is worth remembering because it illustrates how easily a small stock of facts becomes transformed into popular and scientific myth," the paucity of evidence having allowed "the fitting of almost any theory to the small number of facts we have."[30] A similar concern was expressed as far back as 1877, when British neurologist David Ferrier, writing to America in an attempt "to have this case definitely settled," complained that "In investigating reports on diseases and injuries of the brain, I am constantly amazed at the inexactitude and distortion to which they are subject by men who have some pet theory to support. The facts suffer so frightfully."
posted by anazgnos at 10:26 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


survived having an iron rod go through his brain with subsequent changes in personality.

I think this is the take-away from the story of Phineas Gage (a moral echoed in the 1991 movie Regarding Henry): that with some people, the best way to get them to modify their outlook and disposition is through grievous head trauma.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:41 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always wanted to be Phineas for Halloween.

A cardboard tube, some ketchup for effect, and then act like a jerk all night.
posted by cacofonie at 11:45 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just in case you've never heard of a Radical Hemispherectomy, I think the fact that people are able to survive that is relevant to thinking about Phineas Gage.
posted by 256 at 12:21 PM on May 17, 2012


ricochet biscuit: survived having an iron rod go through his brain with subsequent changes in personality.

I think this is the take-away from the story of Phineas Gage (a moral echoed in the 1991 movie Regarding Henry): that with some people, the best way to get them to modify their outlook and disposition is through grievous head trauma.


You saying there's some truth to idea of "knocking some sense into you"? Could be. After all, a blow to the head worked for Hawkeye.

I was just talking about Regarding Henry with my son the other day. Great movie!

I don't want to spoil it, but if you're interested in this kind of thing (and who isn't interested in brain injuries?!) and haven't seen Regarding Henry , it's definitely worth your time.
posted by misha at 12:22 PM on May 17, 2012


Phineas Gage would be my favorite H. G. Wells/Scooby Doo crossover character as the kooky caretaker of a haunted house that the gang was investigating by way of turning The Green Machine into The Time Machine with the help of an English gentleman inventor.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 12:42 PM on May 17, 2012


The unmasking reveals the railroad tycoon who wanted to build a railway right where the house is and didn't like that young upstart Gage ever since he "conveniently"had an accident while working for him. Gage turns out to be the creepy guy who takes walks using his tamping rod as a walking stick, and thus the spooky noises.

Also, this is cool. Thanks!
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 1:13 PM on May 17, 2012


I've always wanted to be Phineas for Halloween.

A friend of mine did this last Halloween! It totally worked.
posted by peacheater at 2:32 PM on May 17, 2012


So weird that I just ran into this: Knee Driving Prohibited

Phineas Gage was a young railroad construction supervisor in the Rutland and Burland Railroad site, in Vermont. In September 1848, while taking a break and playing an early version of an Overton low D whistle (1848 was, of course, before Colin Goldie's time, so Bernard Overton must have made it), an explosion projected the whistle against his skull, at a high velocity.

Uh ... it's a bean-plating whistle site.
posted by dhartung at 6:29 PM on May 17, 2012


I've always wanted to be Phineas for Halloween.

H.M. could be fun too. Wear a hospital gown and re-introduce yourself to people all evening. If nothing else, a great excuse for forgetting names.
posted by maryr at 6:09 PM on May 20, 2012


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