Phineas Gage: The Favorite Patient Of Neuroscientists

The human brain is like a Pandora Box. Despite the advances in Medical Imaging techniques like fMRI, the functions of different regions of the brain haven’t been fully decoded yet. In the 19th century when medical imaging techniques were at an embryonic stage, understanding brain functionalities was a nightmare for scientists. Studying the brain of patients was the most reliable method available then to understand the different functioning of the cerebral cortex areas. Phineas Gage became a legend as his brain sustained an iron rod that drove completely through his head.

The Story Of Phineas Gage


Cerebral Cortex is typically the grey matter in the brain. The German anatomist Korbinian Brodmann divided the cerebral cortex into 52 different areas histologically using Nissl Staining Method.

Gage is one of the earliest cases of documented neuro-injury. Gage had an engaging social life and he was happily married.

After the fatal accident, he allegedly became a jerk. Since his memory was intact, he was able to travel and move around normally. However, his personality underwent a massive change as he no longer had social inhibitions. Some of his friends described post-accident Gage as a ‘psychopath’.

Since his prefrontal cortex had sustained the brain injury, neuroscientists concluded that this area of the brain is responsible for personality, ethical values and social behavior of a person.



Areas of Cerebral Cortex
The Different Areas of Brain. The brown color represents the temporal lobe of the brain.
Credits: John Wiley & Sons

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