In 1848, railroad worker Phineas Gage survived a severe brain injury when a tamping rod shot through his skull, resulting in significant behavioral changes. Researchers have used CT images of his skull in conjunction with MRI and connectomic brain imaging data of living subjects to reconstruct the injury and investigate which regions of the brain were affected to result in the behavioral changes in a new study, reported May 16 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.
The research team, led by John Van Horn of University of California Los Angeles, found that considerable damage occurred to the left frontal cortex, where the rod entered the brain, but they also found that the damage to his brain's white matter fiber pathways was much more widespread than previously recognized.
Dr. Van Horn comments, "The case of Mr. Gage is one of the most famous and fascinating in all of neuroscience. Understanding how his brain connectivity was affected by his astonishing injury contributes new insight on the nature and context of his reported changes in behavior." Their findings have implications for the neural network connectivity of Mr. Gage's brain on a wider scale than just in the area of gray matter damage, add to the history of this famous case, and which may also be of importance to modern day brain trauma patients.