The Brain and Cognitive Function

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The Brain and Cognitive Functions

Centuries of philosophy and science have been dedicated to unraveling the mystery behind how cognition occurs, how it maps to areas of the brain, and to what degree cognition is dependant upon these various areas in which cognitive activities are located. Modern neuroscience has helped tremendously to provide some answers as have tests on brain trama patients such as Phineas Gage which revealed startling changes in individual behavior that can be linked to damage in specific areas of the brain. Even though studies continue to discover new information, there is strong evidence to support the premise that specific areas of the brain are dedicated to certain cognitive functions.

Phineas Gage was an upstanding citizen that lived Cavendish, Vermont in the mid-1800's. Phineas worked as a railroad crew foreman and was considered by his employer to be a highly reliable, responsible man with morals, and a true model citizen. However, an accident that occurred in 1848 drove an iron pole called a tamping iron, through Phineas left cheek and out the top of his skull. According to reports, Phineas was able to get help from a physician, John Martyn Harlow, with whom Phineas carried on a discussion even during the initial treatments. John Martyn Harlow continued to treat Phineas for months after the accident and recorded the substantial changes in Phineas behavior that occurred during that time. It was a significant discovery in modern medicine and some even argue, the beginning of cognitive neuroscience as we know it today. Phineas did not lose motor movement capability, speech ability or apparent cognition abilities. However, Phineas did become a “different person.” Phineas was no longer the model citizen, having little regard for others, know for profane speech, unreliable, and no longer able or willing to follow plans and schedules. In fact, the railroad crew where Phineas was working and which had referred to Phineas as a “model...
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