Psychology, Brain Trauma, and Phineas Gage

Portrait of Phineas Gage Professor Mindy Erchull’s Psychology 100 course is covering everything from brain trauma to memory to Freud in their blog posts. And the range of reflections and incorporation of the ubiquity of psychology in popular culture makes for a fascinating and engaging space to follow. Don’t miss Lucy Bain’s regular and intelligent posts that document her thinking and questioning on the topics being raised.

What’s more, professor Erchull’s link to these two articles on Phineas Gage, “nueroscience’s most famous patient,” makes for good reading. From the Smithsonian article you get a nice recounting of this 19th century railroad worker’s story:

In 1848, Gage, 25, was the foreman of a crew cutting a railroad bed in Cavendish, Vermont. On September 13, as he was using a tamping iron to pack explosive powder into a hole, the powder detonated. The tamping iron—43 inches long, 1.25 inches in diameter and weighing 13.25 pounds—shot skyward, penetrated Gage’s left cheek, ripped into his brain and exited through his skull, landing several dozen feet away. Though blinded in his left eye, he might not even have lost consciousness, and he remained savvy enough to tell a doctor that day, “Here is business enough for you.”

Gage’s initial survival would have ensured him a measure of celebrity, but his name was etched into history by observations made by John Martyn Harlow, the doctor who treated him for a few months afterward. Gage’s friends found him“no longer Gage,” Harlow wrote. The balance between his “intellectual faculties and animal propensities” seemed gone. He could not stick to plans, uttered “the grossest profanity” and showed “little deference for his fellows.” The railroad-construction company that employed him, which had thought him a model foreman, refused to take him back. So Gage went to work at a stable in New Hampshire, drove coaches in Chile and eventually joined relatives in San Francisco, where he died in May 1860, at age 36, after a series of seizures.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Phineas-Gage-Neurosciences-Most-Famous-Patient.html?c=y&page=1##ixzz0sM276v7I

And add to that the fact that the image above, believed to be of Gage holding the tamping iron that shot through his head was discovered recently via Flickr. How cool is that?

Image credit: Smithsonian.com image here.

Recent Alum Go Hippie in Vermont

It’s a bird…it’s a plane…no, it’s gaggle of UMW graduates-cum-hippies living the rustic life on an organic farm in Vermont. Brad Efford and Lena Moses-Schmitt started a wonderful blog wherein for the next month they are going to chronicle the day-to-day life of back breaking labor in the name of hippie regression. They already have some wonderful images of the spectacular setting, and there first Farmer’s market looks quite appetizing.

Geography and Utopu

UMW Professor of Geography Donald Rallis has been blogging on UMW Regional GeogBlog since 2007. He combines his knowledge as a geographer, love of traveling and world news, and insight as an educator to consistently deliver content that is interesting and informative.

A recent post beautifully explains what geography is all about and why it is important. This succinct paragraph provides a clear explanation of what geographers attempt to do in their approach to the world:

…[T]he essence of geography lies in dialectical relationship: places are different (that’s the simple bit), but at the same time they are connected (more complicated.) But there’s more: places are often different because they are connected, and connected because they are different.  The real value of geography lies in simultaneously appreciating differences, similarities, and connections, and how each affects the others (really complicated.)

I recommend reading the post especially if you know little about geography (or why we should care about it) and once you are done with that take some time to read his older posts too.