Friday, May 18, 2012

Phineas Gage Lives!

Model of the path taken by the rod & its impact on white matter.
Well, sort of. Obviously this famous case study patient from the early days of brain science has been deceased for some time. However, a team of researchers recently published an article, Mapping Connectivity Damage in the Case of Phineas Gage, in PLoSONE which attempts to use modern brain imaging techniques to simulate the damage that occurred when that unlucky railroad worker had a tamping iron run through his head.

Besides reinforcing the idea that Gage was incredibly "lucky" in that this accident didn't kill him, the research also attempts to shed light on the role of white matter in shaping the behavioral changes experienced by Phineas.

The article is getting a lot of attention from Gage fans everywhere (e.g., CNN Health) and has sparked renewed interest in the story of the poor Phineas, who may not have been as permanently impaired by the injury as psychology lore would have us believe. In all, Gage's case is a great reminder of both the strengths and limitations of using case examples to learn about the brain. And these images are going straight into next year's slides for my neuroscience unit.


Van Horn JD, Irimia A, Torgerson CM, Chambers MC, Kikinis R, et al. (2012) Mapping Connectivity Damage in the Case of Phineas Gage. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37454. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037454

No comments:

Post a Comment