Phineas Gage and Brain Localization

In this famous case in the history of psychology, Phineas Gage suffered damage to the prefrontal region, specifically its orbitofrontal region (OFC), as a result of an explosion causing an iron bar to pass through it.  Despite such a terrible accident, Gage survived and showed relatively little intellectual or linguistic impairment.  However, he became more egocentric, obstinate and capricious than before and adopted foul language. This suggests that "parts of the brain concerned with emotional expression based on the here-and-now were previously restrained by the damaged regions" (Toates, 2011).  Phineas Gage's case revealed the functional localization in the brain.  Although the concept of localization provides an effective approach to studying brain functions, it should be realized that brain is more complicated than mechanical parts putting together.  Even with localized functions, brain works as an integral organ and can calibrate itself to deal with cross-functional issues.  For instance, the prefrontal cortex  also has a role in discriminating true from false memories and its damage can result in confabulation, which is false memory claiming as true experience something that did not occur (Toates, 2011).  Therefore, what we need to reconcile with these findings is that brain is an integrated multi-functional organ with localized functional specifications thus it is necessary to study both localized and integral functions in brain research.


Toates, F. (2011). Biological psychology (3rd ed.). Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

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