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Cognitive Processing: Phineas Gage’s Accident Research Paper

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Updated: May 2nd, 2022

People acquire new ideas either through hearing or observations and store them in the memory bank of their brain. Later on, the brain processes this information and turns it into knowledge. Consequently, the application of the attained knowledge is what constitutes cognitive processing. Psychologists associated cognitive processing with mental functioning.

For example, various mental processing modes like memory, paying attention to something, apparition, and the creation of a conscious mind from an unconscious one form are part and parcel of mental processing. Undeniably, through these numerous brain functions unleashed by different brain parts, it is evident to note how fundamental the brain is; especially in cognitive processing. However, there is no way one can understand cognitive psychology without first analyzing the fundamental roles of the brain in cognitive processing.

To understand cognitive processing, it is important to study Phineas Gage’s accident and the psychology coupled with it. Interestingly, the study of this accident led to historical study and advancements in many fields including medicine, education, and psychology. This is because; through Phineas Gage’s accident, psychologists exposed so many unknown brain parts, which support cognitive processing. Thus, the brain; divided into different parts, together they play an imperative role in the cognitive dispensation.

Other than the normal brain functions like speech, motor, and memory, the brain performs many other decisive roles not known until Phineas Gage’s accident. Phineas Gage’s accident did more contribution to the study of cognitive psychology.

Though an unfortunate accident, to some extent it became a platform for scientific, medicinal and psychological understandings hence, review of the roles of the brain in cognitive processing. As scientists carried experiments using Phineas Gage’s skull, little by little they realized how instrumental the brain is to cognition. (Macmillan, 2000, pp. 48-64).

Phineas Gage, a construction worker, was involved in an accident that left him with brain injuries. The accident arose as a result of an explosion of iron and gunpowder over his head through the cheekbone. Luckily, Gage did not die. However, the tragic accident changed Gage completely from an energetic industrious, and well- balanced brain individual into an extraneous, intermittent, and a cosset fellow. Notably, even his fellow colleague workers noted how impatient Gage had become. (Leach, & O’Driscoll, 1998, p. 1673).

Indeed, from subsequent experiments done by medics and psychologist son Gage’s skull, it is evident that the brain plays an important role in cognitive processing. After the accident, the iron bar had destroyed Gage’s frontal lobes responsible for lucid decision making. In addition to this, the frontal lobes inform an individual on social adjustments. The brain’s frontal lobes act as a pointer towards the planning and execution of roles.

Phineas Gage lost his job later just because of poor communication and developed impatience. Psychologists indicated that the destruction of frontal lobes led to Gage abandoning friends, becoming extravagant and finally losing his job. (Damasio, Grabowski, Frank, Galaburda & Damasio, 1994, pp. 1104-1106).

Furthermore, the brain plays an important role in cognitive processing. For example, in normal situations, people can control emotions- fundamental in reasoning and learning. Since the accident, Gage failed to do tasks under normal sequences.

Instead, Gage could perform unwarranted tasks at odd times. Clearly, the frontal lobes of the brain make people do tasks under a sequence for clarity. The frontal lobotomy if damaged leads to uncontrolled emotions in persons, poor decision making, and time to time mistakes. (Center for Neural Basis of Cognition, 2009, Para. 2-18).

If any incident destroys the brain neurons, information cannot reach the brain easily due to lack of interest. Also, the neurons for creating brain memory are now dysfunctional. This means that the memory of such a person low. If the memory of a person is low, like that of Phineas after the accident, information flashback, imaginations, deducing of ideas, the chronological classification of events and creation of solution based views cannot exist. Different parts of the brain perform different cognitive functions.

For example, people achieve visualization of objects through the occipital lobes in the brain’s cortex. On the other hand, some minor recognition like the sense of smell or any other stimuli takes place in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain. The brain is also instrumental in language studies as pertains to cognitive psychology. The left cerebral hemisphere is responsible for syntactical language tools and enables an individual to write and analyze any spoken word.

In a case where the frontal lobes lack function ability, poor reasoning and high-ended mistakes do occur. An individual suffering from this syndrome fails to memorize past things due to the destruction of the limbic structure of the brain. (Lycan, 1999, pp. 3-47). Overall, the brain is influential in the general cognition of human beings. The Phineas Gage’s accident dealt him a blow by damaging frontal lobes that otherwise coordinate with other parts of the brain to achieve cognition.

In conclusion, the brain forms the basis of cognitive reasoning. If any part of the brain is dysfunctional due to injury, then the cognitive psychology of that person is adversely affected. Under this scenario, a person of this kind cannot make a sound decision nor perform tasks sequentially just because; the brain’s ability to function cognitively suppresses.

Some cognitive disorders like schizophrenia, dyslexia, and neurodiagnostic have a heavy impact on the cognitive processing of a person. The brain is an agent of cognitive processing. Any damage of the brain parts means that the cognitive processing of an individual is threatened hence, lack of cognition.

Reference List

Center for Neural Basis of Cognition. (2009). Integrating the sciences of Brain and Mind. Web.

Damasio, H., Grabowski, T., Frank R., Galaburda, M., Damasio, A. (1994). The return of Phineas Gage: clues about the brain from the skull of a famous patient, Journal of Science, 264 (5162), 1101-1106.

Leach, P., & O’Driscoll, K. (1998). No longer Gage: An iron bar through the head. British Medical Journal, 317(7174), 1673.

Lycan, W. (1999). Mind and Cognition: An Anthology. (2nd edition). Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers.

Macmillan, M. (2000). Restoring Phineas Gage: a 150th Retrospective. Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, 9(1), 48-64.

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