So What Happens When a Stake Goes Through Your Head?

Have you ever asked yourself this question?  … Yeah… uhh…. me neither… But just in case you have wondered this, here’s a little story of a good friend: Phineas Gage.

In 1848, the railroad business in California was literally booming as formen were hired to lay down railroad through mountainous terrain.  In order to complete this task, our good friend Phineas would have to lay dynamite and then pack it in with a 5 foot iron rod.  On one unfortunate day, Phineas didn’t pack the dynamite well enough as it exploded,  sending the stake flying straight into his face.

The most remarkable thing about all of this?  Phineas not only survived this blast, but immediately got up and walked over to the doctor.  Before the accident: Phineas was an intelligent, shy businessman, energetic and extremely driven.  After the accident: he became impatient, obstinate, and just downright rude.  Because of his change in attitude, he was eventually fired (but interestingly found a job with the circus and his brain rod).

So what happened?  How come he survived?  Why did he have this sudden personality change?  Well, most likely, good ol’ Phineas had his ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex destroyed.  This is the area of the brain that is responsible for personality.  Now his change from Mr. Nice Guy to the rude one is still a mystery, we’re still trying to figure that one out.  This is the area that gives us originality.  This makes us who we are.

 But even if you really don’t like someone, I wouldn’t suggest providing them with a shovel to the face as a ‘personality adjustment’.


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