Phineas Gage  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Phineas P. Gage (July 9?, 1823 – May 21, 1860) was an American railroad construction foreman now remembered for his improbable survival of an accident in which a large iron rod was driven completely through his head, destroying much of his brain's left frontal lobe, and for that injury's reported effects on his personality and behavior – effects so profound that friends saw him as "no longer Gage".

Long called "the American Crowbar Case" – once termed "the case which more than all others is calculated to excite our wonder, impair the value of prognosis, and even to subvert our physiological doctrines" – Phineas Gage influenced 19th-century discussion about the brain, particularly debate on cerebral localization, and was perhaps the first case suggesting that damage to specific regions of the brain might affect personality and behavior.

Gage is a fixture in the curricula of neurology, psychology and related disciplines, and is frequently mentioned in books and academic papers; he also has a minor place in popular culture. Relative to this celebrity, the body of known fact about the case is remarkably small, which has allowed it to be cited, over the years, in support of various theories of the brain and mind wholly contradictory to one another. A survey of published accounts has found that even modern scientific presentations of Gage are usually greatly distorted – exaggerating and even directly contradicting the established facts.

A daguerreotype portrait of Gage – "handsome ... well dressed and confident, even proud," and holding the tamping iron which injured him – was identified in 2009 (see below). One researcher points to it as consistent with a social recovery hypothesis, under which Gage's most serious mental changes may have existed for only a limited time after the accident, so that in later life he was far more functional, and socially far better adapted, than has been thought. A second portrait (right) came to light in 2010.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Phineas Gage" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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