Why Scientists Are Still Fascinated By Phineas Gage

In the grand scheme of things, there aren’t
many ordinary people who have names remembered by history. Unless, that is, something extraordinary happens
to them. The extraordinary certainly happened to Phineas
Gage on September 13th, 1848. Unfortunately for Gage, that extraordinary
thing was pretty gruesome. Here’s why Phineas Gage is still fascinating,
even today. What happened? 25-year-old construction foreman Phineas Gage
was helping cut a new railway bed through Cavendish, Vermont, and was using a tamping
iron to pack explosives into a hole. And then…this happened. [Explosion and panicked yelling] The explosives detonated early, and sent the
4-foot, 13-pound tamping iron through his left cheek, into his brain, and out his skull. Making things worse, according to legend,
he might not have even lost consciousness. Historical documents say that he was driven
into town, where he sat on a porch chair and chatted to passers-by as he waited for Doctor
John Harlow. After a few days, he developed a brain infection
that left him even closer to the Grim Reaper’s door, but the Reaper had apparently been impressed
enough with what he’d already survived to give him a pass. He recovered, lost use of his left eye, and
went home two months later. Everyone who knew him before and after the
accident agreed he had changed, and when he died in 1860 after suffering a series of seizures,
he remained a part of historical and medical infamy. Pioneering neurology Gage is one of the earliest documented cases
of traumatic brain injury, and his accident couldn’t have come at a better time for the
science of neurology. When Dr. Harlow first documented Gage’s story
in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in 1848, no one believed it. It wasn’t until 1850, when Harvard professor
Henry J. Bigelow wrote a piece on him being a fully functional human post-accident that
people started to notice this medical miracle. Bigelow’s follow-up report in 1868 focused
on the “mental manifestations” of the accident, saying, “[He had become] fitful, irreverent, indulging
at times in the grossest profanity [and] manifesting but little deference for his fellows.” In short, the guy who got a giant metal spike
through his head allegedly became a jerk. Neurologists at the time insisted that we
needed to look inside the brain to unlock the secrets of what made us human, and Gage
was the first documented case that provided evidence for this, so we should probably be
thanking Gage for his unwitting scientific contributions. Insane in the brain There’s still a ton we don’t know about brain
function today, and we can’t always peek inside to see what’s going on, so we have to find
other ways to get a look. Gage’s accident and his big, open brain was
helpful in doing just that. We know what part of his brain sustained the
most damage: the prefrontal cortex. And we know what happened to him afterward. His memory was intact, and he was perfectly
capable of working, traveling, and doing everything else a responsible human should do. But everyone also agreed that his personality
underwent a big change, which was pretty good proof that our personality lives in our prefrontal
cortex. While some sources say post-accident Gage
was a depraved monster… “I’m still the same man. I’m the same man!” “Look at yourself, Phineas!” “Give me my job back! Give me my job back!” …other documentation shows he managed to
maintain a pretty normal life. It’s also written that he exhibited himself
in freak shows, and that he had no more social inhibitions, was a perpetual drunk, and even
that he was described as psychopathic. “He’s like an animal now.” “An animal’s emotions in a man’s body.” But there’s nothing in Dr. Harlow’s writings
that suggests anything of the sort, and his mother testified he was eager to keep working
after the accident and loved making up stories to tell his nieces and nephews. Psychopath, storyteller, or something in between? No one’s entirely sure. New insight Technology has come a long way since Gage’s
accident, and it’s a lucky thing that we still have his skull. The official cause of Gage’s 1860 death was
complications from epileptic convulsions. No autopsy was performed after he died, but
Gage’s body was exhumed seven years after his burial, and his brother-in-law took both
the skull and tamping iron to Dr. Harlow. Today, both artifacts are housed in Harvard’s
Warren Anatomical Museum. We don’t have any direct information about
Gage’s brain, but we do have two of the most important tools needed to re-create what happened
to him. His skull was mapped and diagrammed as early
as the 1940s, according to NPR, and as technology has improved we’ve gotten increasingly better
looks. In 2012, researchers from the Laboratory of
Neuro Imaging used a combination of techniques to map exactly what connections were severed
when the tamping iron sliced through his skull, and they found something pretty interesting:
the white matter in Gage’s brain likely sustained damage less severe than you might expect,
similar to the damage done by a typical brain lesion. Pretty lucky for such a seemingly unlucky
guy. We can overcome There’s a lot of gory stuff that’s involved
in talking about Phineas Gage. He’s still the poster child doctors point
to when they want to show patients and their families what the human body and brain can
overcome, even without the miracle of modern medicine. If there’s one good thing to come out of Gage’s
insane, life-changing accident, we think he’d be happy to be an inspiration to people going
through similar, life-altering traumas — which is pretty fascinating. Thanks for watching! Click the Grunge icon to subscribe to our
YouTube channel. Plus check out all this cool stuff we know
you’ll love, too!

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100 Responses

  1. Grunge says:

    Did you ever see the movie about Phineas Gage?

  2. Julian Schwarz says:

    Agenda port corn bsmezo wall summit phone line staff park.

  3. Naysi. react says:

    Or is it a doing of a witch?

  4. nimiipuu Ellenwood says:

    Shit back then u had no choice but to tuffin it out and hope for the best. Just living back then woulda been hardcore.

  5. Chris Dykstra says:

    Was that Brian Cranston?

  6. Thais Gonzalez says:

    He’s a real life scoop from f is for family

  7. Akva X says:

    He was handsome

  8. Joe Blows says:

    That's usin yer noggin

  9. chloe jec says:

    I keep thinking about phinese and ferb bc of his name

  10. anonymous says:

    I'm a scientist and I never heard/read about him

  11. Majin VEGETA says:

    What about ferb?

  12. king says:

    i remember him from psych class only cause i thought he was hella cute

  13. Michael Exman says:

    His doctor saved his life but abused the shit out of him.

  14. Paul Gibbons says:

    His inhibitions disappeared with his frontal lobe.

  15. TheMass33 says:

    They worship his skull.

  16. Clementine says:

    Sooo…What happened to Ferb Gage?

  17. ChronicallySweaty says:

    #800 comment

  18. Andrew Birch says:

    Well really I understand a lot of his reaction and response and everything because I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury from a car accident and necessarily it corrupted many things in my life except I don’t drink and I’m not rude or anything just thrown off by exactly how and why I was given such a horrible experience

  19. TheGamingHQ says:

    IS this me or did I learn this in fourth grade in a gifted program in school

  20. Chet Pomeroy says:

    At least we know more about what happens with people who have Cluster B personality disorders. I've heard that the prefrontal cortex of the brains of Cluster B's are not well developed, adversely affecting their personalities.

  21. Boomer says:

    i once stepped on lego and survived

  22. o. says:

    The changes in Gage are the result of acquired sociopaty due to frontal lobe damage.

  23. thicc doggo says:

    I just knew that scene from stranger things would appear 3:42 .

  24. omarqb says:


  25. aaronsdavis says:

    1st year psychology class coming back strong.

  26. Aseem Sirkeck says:

    the original overly manly man…

  27. a fat Panda says:

    What was phineas and ferb Sister name again

  28. Beauty Blender says:

    dat shit hurted

  29. Nathan Hassall says:

    whoever chooses your background music should be fired

  30. Osas says:

    0:34 what movie is that?

  31. Osas says:

    Yea there many cases of the cortex being affect and changing personalities it’s pretty cool

  32. Alex van den Berg says:

    Turn down your music man, I'm trying to listen

  33. EthwAko X says:

    1:29 his accident couldnt have come at a better time

  34. Random Dude says:

    Jesus Christ

  35. Henry Licitra says:

    Lol we JUST learned about this in class today and by some coincidence, it pops up in Recommended. Freaky.

  36. NG ! says:

    It’s because he was Ferb’s brother.

  37. Marcus says:

    This is Ferb's brother right?

  38. Brian Payne says:

    I had a head injury in ‘05, from a motorcycle accident. I was never overly conscious about what language I used, however, I curse a LOT more now. I’ve heard of gage, but never really thought about his injury.

  39. Marige OBrien says:

    I've heard about him before, though I never saw the movie. From what you say here, about the personality change, I wonder if it was the physical affects of the accident or the emotional trauma caused by first the accident and then the way he was treated differently by others afterwards that caused the changes in him. All the interplay would have a huge impact on his personality, too.

    How can they be sure it was the physical changes? They assume it was. Yet it's long been acknowledged that a traumatic experience can change a person. Some of the symptoms of PTSD include physical tremors and a personality change. Living through such an accident would definitely fall into the category of traumatic events.

    Also, consider how those around him may have changed the way they treated him. Historically, when someone exhibits unusual behavior, their peers will set him apart and treat him differently, either better or worse. This would bring about manifestations he may have never demonstrated before, as well, out of sheer frustration.

    It's too simplistic to assume it was merely the rod that caused physical changes. I'm not convinced at all. In fact, given what we know today about psychology, I seriously doubt the rod had any effect on his personality.

  40. sekirei19 says:

    Relistening to the dollop n brought me here

  41. adoreskata says:

    are we all just going to ignore the fact that there was a stranger things scene included at 3:43 which also happens to be the reason why i know about phineas in the first place.

  42. Michelle Bills says:

    This is how god works amen

  43. Jennifer Sliwa says:

    Music is distracting and does not match the topic of this video.

  44. Vismund says:

    1:44 Male Gigolo

  45. Mianimations Inc. says:

    Tell me why I clicked this because I thought it said Phineas and Ferb

  46. The Truth says:

    Gage had a 4ft rod stabbed entirely thru his head and he just gets called an asshole

  47. An Angel Named Michael says:

    "Cage is one of the earliest documented cases of traumatic brain injury."
    Well, apparently religious prophets don't count to this narrator.

  48. RARETANK654 says:

    Slowo the video down to 0.25% in the settings, then go to the scene at 0:33 and watch the rod go through him 10/10 editing skills

  49. Daniel Purdy says:

    Penis gage? What a weird name

  50. theoffspringguy says:

    Despite all my rage I'm still just a rod in a Gage

  51. David Haynes says:

    If he made it through all will make it

  52. Meg McNamara says:

    This is how I describe what happened to my father. He had a brain tumor in the frontal cortex and as they operated, he had a stroke. My father changed in the same way he did.

  53. TRGV says:

    3:23 Human Bender <3

  54. Jens-Uwe Jansen says:

    Maybe the video should mention that this incident and all the documentation led to the invention of frontal lobe lobotomy?

  55. smelly clementines, horrifying times says:

    i thought the title said phineas and ferb

  56. Cat Lover says:

    I watched this at school in Gonzalez

  57. Ahmed Ameez says:

    this must be chuck norris's great great great great great great great grandfather

  58. 커비타일러 says:


  59. Jocelynn Lauretta says:

    This was kinda creepy. Especially how he coughed up that chunk of brain out his head.

  60. Exponble says:

    I don't even know who the hell this guy is, but I clicked on the video anyway.

  61. I_haz_a_tumor says:

    Thank you for the information my dude!

  62. DankzDead says:

    No longterm damage

  63. XxCool cat with glassesxX says:

    Dr Harlow! Poppy harlow! Pewdiepie!! T series!!! Pewdiepie is. t series comfermd

  64. Ice Storm says:

    Know him because of the Five Nights at Freddys Theories. No joke

  65. ghost outlaw says:

    Wow! Does anyone think that yourself is CRAZY?
    Thumbs up if you are crazy? 😲😨😎👍✌👍

  66. Bai Mark says:

    He’s handsome

  67. bloated and alone says:

    I thought it was going to say phinease and ferb

  68. Nanuq 83 says:

    This was really fascinating! Thanks for the upload 🙂

  69. NEAL JONES says:

    background music is bad choice.YOUR FIRED~!

  70. Xavier Lapis says:

    shame, they never credit the artist who made the background song

  71. xXHannah YTXx says:

    That guy was in my Science book. He damaged his frontal lobe.

  72. Mary Williams says:

    Piano music please.

  73. DeAnna Mckinney says:

    I have a headache

  74. Tillted Flowers says:

    Theres A Bunch Of Things Worse Than Getting Impaled Through The Head By A Bomb Detonator

  75. driveman says:

    Similarly, I once stubbed my toe on the coffee table leg while running to the fridge for a beer. It was super bowl 37, close game, commercial came on so I made my mad dash. Miraculously, I crawled the entire 42 feet from the living room, to the kitchen, and back before play resumed. Hearing of Phineas' ordeal makes me believe we share a common bond. RIP Phineas.

  76. Sean Brennan says:

    Of course he changed.he had a hole through his head

  77. thinkin outloud says:

    Is it true that when Phineas Gage made love with his wife and upon ejaculation he had an epilepsy attack all over her? And for that she left him?

  78. prom queen says:

    He walked*

  79. prom queen says:

    He got up and walked home. I forgot exactly the distance but ima throw 1 or 5 miles out there. He picked up a chunk of his brain matter from the ground and looked at it before turning around n heading out. He/his head skull and body system had fever n multiple docs chkn on him often over infection & fevers first n foremost. He worked many jobs after the accident but maintaining the same job.. Forever, like most ppl do, came difficult to him through out the rest of his life. It got better with time.
    I could only imagine what he would have to say to Google, the WWW and the open stalking/spying, prodding& probing culture that exist. 😇 at least he would be honest

  80. Doctour Two skull says:

    Phineas gage? Nah fam, i think you mean phineas and ferb

  81. Wally West says:

    Anyone after stranger things??

  82. Vasilijan Nikolovski says:

    Couldn't watch this shit.
    The fucking shitty background music is beyond annoying.

  83. Paige P says:

    Loved the music choice

  84. Isshin says:

    50 Cent who?

  85. Christy Linck says:

    2:06 I laughed so god damn hard at that 😂

  86. Nikola Vlok says:

    the background music is horrific

  87. James Spivey says:

    Shout out to my Psyc class!!!

  88. PaperTowel says:

    What's with the awful clip art.

  89. GAGE Stevenson says:


  90. zebras don't fly for a reason says:

    …ewww, just ewww…

  91. MinDy BouVier says:

    "Died of epileptic seizure"
    * keeps showing flashing colored texts next to his picture *

  92. demi god says:

    3:07 why was that funny 😂😂😂

  93. Brian Warner says:

    What was the point of this video if you mostly just floundered between personal conflicting accounts of his personality after the incident? You barely talked about why it is and was so interesting. I think the reason he was so interesting back then is because people saw him as a good evolved human before the incident, and then after saw him as an average black guy with white skin. L.O.L. bitches…

  94. Amal Joy says:

    Who is here after stranger Things.?

  95. akash R.nair says:

    Strangers things

  96. A C says:

    yeah you might be a dick if you had a rod shot through your face..

  97. Steve Harrington says:

    Who is here from stranger things? 😂

  98. Kezzaa00 says:

    tbh if i had a spike through my cheeky eye brain and skull id be pretty grumpy to…

  99. hopeworldian says:

    came here bc of stranger things 😂

  100. Ian says:

    Murdoch Mysteries anyone?

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