Phineas Gage

Phineas Gage / Unknown Photographer

Phineas Gage / Unknown Photographer

A case of changed personality: Phineas Gage was a young Vermont railroad worker who in 1848 had a terrible accident. An explosion caused a heavy iron rod to pierce his brain in the front area. Amazingly, he was still alive, walking and talking minutes after the accident, and he recovered. Gage eventually worked as a stableman in New Hampshire, a farmhand in San Francisco, and a stagecoach driver in Chile. Every place he lived he brought a souvenir: the 3 ½ foot iron rod that almost killed him.

If Gage’s outward appearance was his old self (he did lose one eye), his personality was thoroughly new. Before, he was a smart, well-balanced fellow, a good businessman. After his accident he was fitful, profane, and stubborn. “Gage,” his doctor famously wrote, “is no longer Gage.”

Are you different?

3 Responses to “Phineas Gage”

  1. Cheryl writes:

    I wasn’t exactly well-balanced like Gage to begin with, but I had my real shyness. Now, I have become much more profane and lost my shyness completely. Lots more fun to be had, but I also get into fights all the time and give away too much personal information to strangers.

  2. Roy Stone writes:

    I am 63. I am very different than I was as a young man. It is good to change because through my experiences and learnings I am trying to survive and improve the quality of my life. I could not imagine how I would change but change happens. You don’t want to get stuck in a negative personality. One where you are angry or depressed or fearful. There are ways out of these bardos. This is a big topic. One of the best thinkers on this subject is the famous neurologist Antonio Damasio. He wrote about Phineas Gage. The key to our behavior is through our feelings and emotions which are unconscious processes. They are extremely important to pay attention too. Our conscious brain ultimately interprets these signals. This is where you had better get it right or your life is headed down a bad road. Check out some Damasio: http://bigthink.com/videos/big-think-interview-with-antonio-damasio

  3. Polly writes:

    I sometimes wonder if unrecognized stroke/neurological damage can occur throughout our lives. Perhaps this could explain the changes we sometimes see in people.

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