Different Areas Of The Brain Are Specialised In Their Functions. Discuss.

1764 words - 7 pages

Different areas of the brain are specialised in their functions. Discuss.The idea of localisation of function within the brain has only been accepted for the last century and a half. In the early 19th century Gall and Spurzheim, were ostracised by the scientific community for their so-called science of phrenology. They suggested that there were twenty-seven separate organs in the brain, governing various moral, sexual and intellectual traits. The importance of each to the individual was determined by feeling the bumps on their skull. The science behind this may have been flawed, but it first introduced the idea of functional localisation within the brain which was developed from the mid 1800's onwards by clinicians such as Jackson and Broca. Most of the information available on the human brain came from subjects who had sustained major head wounds, or who suffered from various mental disorders. By determining the extent of brain damage, and the nature of the loss of function, it was possible to infer which regions of the brain were responsible for which function.One of the most bizarre cases of accidental brain injury is that of Phinnaeus P. Gage, a railroad worker. In the fall of 1848, Gage and his crew were blasting rock. The procedure involved drilling a hole in the rock, then stuffing the hole with alternate layers of packing material and black powder. The packing material was tamped into place with a long steel rod. In a moment of carelessness, Gage apparently tried to tamp the powder layer, and a spark ignited the powder. The resulting explosion transformed the tamping rod into a four-foot projectile which entered Gage's left cheek, passed through the top of his head, and landed several feet away.To the amazement of Gage's crew, he sat up and began talking to them minutes later and, after a short trip by ox cart ambulance, was able to walk up the stairs to his hotel room. The attending physician determined that his entire index finger could be inserted into Gage's brain case. He placed bandages on the wounds, and followed him through an uneventful period of healing. Within a few weeks, Gage's physical recovery allowed him to return to his job as foreman. He had no apparent intellectual deficits or memory losses. Yet, his return to work quickly showed the nature of the deficit that follows massive frontal lobe damage. The formerly mild mannered, thoughtful and cooperative foreman had been transformed into a cursing, belligerent tyrant. He lost his job, joined a travelling sideshow for a few years to capitalise on his misfortune, and died of an epilepsy attack about 13 years later.Phinnaeus P. Gage's tragic case history has become famous in the history of abnormal psychology as an example of altered behaviour resulting from traumatic brain injury. Thousands of other case histories involving trauma, cerebrovascular accidents, tumours and the like have provided parallels to animal experimental data to build up a fairly accurate picture of the...

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