Phineas Gage is regarded as one the fatal brain injuries. Gage endured brain injury, which transformed his character. Gage and his colleagues were excavating rocks to pave way for railroad track during the fateful incidence. Gage, together with his colleagues suffered serious injuries after the railroad collapsed. Gauge went to seek medical attention from doctors who learnt that he had suffered severe brain damage. The doctors alleged, “The accident caused damage to brain structures leading to Gage behaving differently” (Barker, 1995, p. 673). This paper will focus on Phineas Gage accident. Moreover, it will discuss how accidents helped to construe how the different brain segments sustain cognitive functions.
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Phineas Gage accident offered a good platform to learn how brain supports cognitive functions. The accident revealed that different brain segments have different roles in propping up cognitive functions. From the accident, doctors learnt that the “left frontal region assists in character development” (Barker, 1995, p. 675). Doctors scanned Gage’s skull, shortly after the accident to determine the abrasion that made him to behave differently. The examination revealed that Gage had suffered damage to his left frontal region leading to changes in his character.
Left frontal region is responsible for character growth and, when damaged, it leads to the victim losing their character. Besides, “the accident led to the damage of right and left prefrontal cortices” (Barker, 1995, p. 677). The prefrontal cortices help an individual to make cogent judgments and to control their emotions (Barker, 1995). By examining Phineas Gage skull, doctors were able to discern how the brain operates. The examination helped the doctors to understand how the different segments of the brain support cognitive functions.
The brain assists in interpreting and solving problems. Fleischman posits, “Cognitive function of the brain requires transmission of signals from left to right hemisphere….corpus callous helps to transmit signals between the two hemispheres” (2002, p. 74). “Once the left part of the body receives signals, it sends them to the right segment of the brain while signals received by the right part of the body are sent to the left segment” (Macmillan, 1986, p. 70). The two hemispheres then process the signals. They are deemed principal at one point. For instance, the left hemisphere assists in interpreting and making reasonable judgments. An individual that suffers damage to the left hemisphere during a tragedy encounters challenges in making logical decisions (Fleischman, 2002). Such a person cannot solve even the easiest problems, thus looking for assistance from their friends or relatives.
Additionally, the brain supports movement synchronization. Fleischman posits, “There is a motor area behind the frontal lobe that helps to coordinate movement” (2002, p. 81). The area permits voluntary movement, which makes it possible for an individual to walk. Accident may incapacitate the motor area. If this happens, it may be hard for the victim to walk or move from one place to another. In addition to movement coordination, brain aids to control one’s emotions. After Gage suffered brain damage, he could no longer control his emotions. It became hard for him to associate with anybody since he could become emotional at any time.
One of the key cognitive functions is learning. Learning entails accumulation of experience from an individual’s surrounding. An individual with brain damage has trouble in learning. Macmillan asserts, “Brain cells found in the cerebrum facilitate in learning” (1986, p. 102). Individuals gain dexterity through incentives, which are communicated to the brain. Macmillan (1986) alleges that brain depends on neurotransmitters for signal transmission. Nerve cells release the neurotransmitters therefore, sustaining cognitive functions such as learning. When a person suffers from brain damage, the damage affects the brain cells leading to learning problems (Macmillan, 1986). Doctors examining Gage’s skull found that the accident damaged cerebrum, which supports learning.
The cerebrum is in charge of remembrance processing. It contains a number of cells that help one to store and remember things. As a person grows older, the cells ware out making it hard for a person to remember or process many things (Willingham, 2006). This underlines why old people forget things easily. Besides, the nerves stop to discharge neurotransmitters. It becomes difficult for brain cells to transport signals from one brain segment to another. Moreover, if an accident causes damage to brain cells, the victim is likely to exhibit signs of memory loss. Brain injury alters the hippocampus, which “helps to transfer information from short-term memory to long-term memory” (Willingham, 2006, p. 34). Consequently, it becomes hard for the affected person to process the information. A close examination of Gage’s skull revealed that the hippocampus plays a critical role in memory processing.
A study of Phineas Gage skull revealed that different brain segments support cognitive functions. Doctors found that the left frontal segment helps in character growth. In addition, the doctors learnt that the brain has two prefrontal cortices, which are responsible for controlling emotions and making cogent judgments. The study proved that brain helps to synchronize movement. This highlights the reason why individuals suffering from brain damage are unable to walk. Another revelation made from Phineas Gage skull was that brain supports learning and memory processing. Individuals that suffer from brain damage encounter challenges in learning and remembering things. Moreover, as people grows old, brain cells ware out making it hard for them to remember things.
Barker, F. (1995). Phineas among the phrenologists: the American crowbar case and nineteenth-century theories of cerebral localization. Journal of Neurosurgery, 82(1), 672–682
Fleischman, J. (2002). Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Macmillan, M. (1986). A wonderful journey through skull and brains: The travels of Mr. Gage’s tamping iron. Brain and Cognition, 5(1), 67–107.
Willingham, D. (2006). Cognition: The Thinking Animal (3rd ed.). New York: Pearson.