Thursday, May 4, 2023

Alone Australia

In 1848, an unfortunate American named Phineas Gage had a nasty accident while overseeing the construction of a railroad in Vermont. Gage was packing explosive into a rock with a pointed metre-long rod called a tamping iron when a stray spark caused the charge to blow prematurely. Shooting out of the rock like a javelin fired by a rocket launcher, the rod speared into Gage’s face, passed through the left frontal lobe of his brain, flew out the top of his skull, and landed point-first in the earth 25 metres away. 

Gage survived the accident, but his personality was drastically altered by the damage to his frontal lobe. This was a stroke of luck for the era’s brain scientists. Long before the days of fMRI, Gage’s injury offered valuable information about which parts of the brain did what. It would have been grossly unethical for medical researchers to obtain this information by ramming a metal rod through somebody’s head. But since that had happened to Gage already, scientists made the most of his misfortune ... [read more]