Have you heard the curious story of Phineas Gage? In 1848 he was the foreman for a railroad construction company in Vermont. As was wont to happen more often than not in those days, there as an unexpected explosion while clearing the way for the tracks. Imagine this: Phineas Gage is standing over a hole filled with gun powder and explosives, and he’s tamping it down to prepare it for the detonation. But the gun powder ignites prematurely, and his tamping iron (essentially, a metal rod about 4 feet long and just over an inch in diameter) flies from his hands upwards, and through his cheek just under his left eye, and travels skyward and exits the top of his skull.

Now, you’d think that Mr. Phineas Gage would have expired right there on the spot. But no. He made his way to the doctor later that day, and lived another 11 years before dying of seizures. During the years following his accident, Phineas Gage had a dramatic change in personality. He couldn’t remember plans, uttered horrific profanity, and showed little regard for his fellows. The railroad company fired him, and his friends felt as though he were truly no longer himself. Today, psychology textbooks reference his case to illustrate the connection between brain injury and behavior change.

This story is both terribly sad and incredibly remarkable. Not only did Mr. Gage survive a seriously traumatic brain injury, his experience revealed the direct connection between the brain and behavior during a time when the inner workings of the brain were largely a mystery to physicians and scientists. It opened up an entire field of study and neuroscientists continue to revisit his case because his personality change was so dramatic and the brain damage was so specific.

Doctors Impossible view the curious case of Phineas Gage as evidence of the mystery that lives in our head–our brain. Scientists continue to learn how the brain affects our personality, our judgment, and our behavior, and we–The Doctors Impossible–believe that there are superpowers within us, hidden in our brains and bodies, that have yet to be discovered. The impossible lies within you!


Source: Smithsonian Magazine (January 2010) and NPR (May 2017)

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