Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On Phineas Gage Case And Brain Localization Studies

Phineas Gage is written to have "dramatic brain damage which resulted in dramatic personality changes". Oh boy, but this where we run into some serious problems based on recent evidence that has been uncovered.

I quote

"By late 2008 an advertisement for a previously unknown public appearance by Gage had been discovered, as well as a report of his physical and mental condition during his time in Chile, and a description of what may well have been his daily work routine there as a long-distance coach driver. This new information suggests that the seriously maladapted Gage described by Harlow may have existed for only a limited time after the accident—that Phineas eventually "figured out how to live" despite his injury,[40] and was in later life much more functional, and socially much better adapted, than has been thought".[41]

So as we see that his personality back, however their is good reasons to doubt Harlows account.

I quote

"The uncertainty of Harlow's sources for the changes he describes in Gage, combined with the fact that he waited almost twenty years (between his first and second papers) to communicate those changes, constitute one of the main puzzles of the case."

So as we still it is looking more and more less likely that he suffered dramatic personality change to the point of showing evidence for full blown mind-brain dependency. This case is often cited by full blown support for very strong mind-brain dependency. But as i have shown it's no where near supportive of it.

Brain localizations studies all of them indicate the words "associated with". Of course no dualist denies that particular brain functions will be associated with different mental phenomena. Brain localizations studies, don't tell us one way or another if mind and consciousness are separate from the brain or produced by the brain.

A side note, wordy a member on infidels forum wondered what i mean by "Survivalism". Simple, survivalism refers to the belief in the survival of the conscious self after the death of the physical body. Survivalists attempt to prove survival with the methods of science, using as evidence such things as psychic phenomena, near death experiences, out-of-body experiences, electronic voice phenomena, mediumship, reincarnation research,and various forms of photography.Survivalism is by implication a form of philosophical dualism.


Matt said...

As a longtime researcher on Gage, I feel I should comment. The passages you quote refer to evidence on Gage uncovered by my colleague Malcolm Macmillan and me. And I'm afraid you have misinterpreted it.

There is no question that Gage underwent significant personality changes immediately after his accident (most believe because of brain damage, though you may believe otherwise -- that's beside the point here). The question has always been the nature and extent of those changes. I personally believe that this question was settled fairly well in Macmillan's Book *An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phienas Gage.*

But because of Macmillan's and my recent work, a new dimension has been added in the form of this quesion: To what extent did Gage recover, over the years, from those initial changes?

Contrary to what you imply, we do not discount Harlow -- in fact we believe him to be one of only 2 or 3 reliable primary sources on Gage of any significant length -- and neither do the passages you quote in your post. They merely address the uncertainty as to *which years in Gage's life* Harlow was writing about at various places in his 1868 report.

Matthew L Lena (Boston)

Matt said...

The Gage daguerreotype was identified because someone “just happened to remember” something. Malcolm Macmillan and I, who have been researching Gage for years, hope lighting willt strike again. Without your knowing, you may already have important information on Phineas, or if you are located in any of the places mentioned below, you could help look for information. And it’s important, because a better understanding of Gage could improve treatments for persons with head injuries today.

Below are some of the things we are looking for. Many relate not to Gage himself, but rather people he met or places he’d been. Information might be in letters and diaries; medical and business records; town, police and court files; local newspapers; or in the archives of churches, hospitals and literary, professional, historical and genealogical societies. We especially hope organizations will search their one-of-a-kind materials not published in book form. FOR MORE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS, and why answers might help us better understand Phineas, please visit .

IN CHILE (1852-60): We want to know about Drs. William and Henry Trevitt, Masonic lodges, Methodist churches, and English-language newspapers, schools and businesses. Do you know anyone who can help with such things?

IN NEW ENGLAND (1848-54): Can you find newspaper or diary accounts of Phineas’ accident, of his travels exhibiting himself and his “iron,” or of his reported preaching at Methodist revivals in Sterling, Mass.? In Concord, NH records of the Abbot-Downing coachworks could identify “three enterprising New Englanders” who may have set up the coach line for which Phineas drove in Chile; in Hanover you might discover Phineas’ duties at Currier’s Inn, or a Dartmouth professor who met him; and somewhere in Wilton may be the papers of Henry Trevitt.

IN CALIFORNIA (1860- ): Where is the missing undertaker’s ledger showing where Gage died? What can you discover about Dr. William Jackson Wentworth (Alameda Co.) or the papers of Joseph Stalder (d.1931)? Are you descended from Phineas’s nieces/nephew Hannah, Delia, Mary, Alice, or Frank B. Shattuck? Can we learn more about Frank at the School for the Deaf?

IN OHIO (1860- ): Can you find anything about Henry Trevitt’s time at Starling Medical College in Columbus, Prof. J.W. Hamilton, or William Trevitt’s papers?

ANYWHERE: If you are related to the Cowdrey, Davis, Ames, or Kimball families, are you also related to Phineas’ doctor, John Martyn Harlow? Do you know of ship passenger lists (Boston, New York, Chile, Panama, S.F.) that might show Gage family movements? Do you have Gold Rush ancestors who stopped in Valparaiso, Chile? And of course, letters mentioning Gage could have gone anywhere.

There are more clues in Stillwater and Northfield, MN; Santa Clara, San Rafael, and S.F., CA; Cavendish, Castleton, Woodstock, and Burlington, VT; Lebanon, Enfield and Wilton, NH; Albany, NY, Buda, IL, the National Library of Medicine, and other places. At are details on how you can help by following such clues. Your help or inquiries to will be very much appreciated. (Please use email instead of posting a reply here.)

We would be pleased to assist teachers (in New England, S.F., even Chile?) in creating a class project involving students’ search for family papers or local lore about Gage.

Matthew L. Lena (Boston, Mass.)

Leo MacDonald said...

Hi there,

First, i want to thankyou for taking the time to respond to my post.

My point is we have pretty great uncertainty on how much his personality did change during his accident. For example why did Harlow wait almost 20 years between his first and second papers to communicate those changes? In the wikipedia source that i quoted from it talks that comes from your colleague Malcolm Macmillian, about the distortion and misuse of the case itself. In my post i mentioned that yes of course they is significant personality changes but this case does support full blown dependency of brain on the mind.

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