Monday, Nov. 01, 2010

Phineas Gage

After that fateful day working on the railroad, Phineas Gage reportedly cursed. Intensely. But you'd probably multiply the number of four-letter words in your vocabulary, too, if a 3-ft. 7-in. tamping iron weighing a good 13 lb. had shot through your skull. Remarkably, Gage was upright and speaking within minutes after the Sept. 13, 1848, accident; he died in 1860, after suffering from seizures. But the injury did seem to alter the man, his doctor later reported, to the extent that friends said Gage was "no longer Gage." One of the most famous brain-injury cases in history, it shed light on the connection between behavior and regions of the brain. Gage's skull resides — as does the iron — in the Warren Anatomical Museum at Harvard's Medical School.