March 11, 2013
Donna M. Glover-Rogers, Ph.D
The Brain and Cognitive Functioning
The following describes the role of the brain and the impact it has on a person’s cognitive functions, including how injury to certain part of the brain can affect specific cognitive functions while leaving others intact. To support this idea we look at the case of Phinneas Gage, and how his brain injury affected his cognitive abilities. In order to understand what role the brain plays in cognitive functioning one must understand cognitive functioning and what it is. Cognitive functioning refers to a person’s ability to coordinate thought and action as well as the ability to direct it towards a goal. It is needed to overcome environmental obstacles, orchestrate plans and execute complex sequences of behavior. When a person thinks, gives their attention to something, has or feels some kind of emotion, makes a plan, learns a new task or information, or recalls a memory they are using their cognitive functioning all of which starts in the brain. As the world has progressed so has science and technology; as theses fields have grown so has the ability to learn about the brain and how it works. Today we know that the brain is made up of millions small parts all working together to serve a final outcome. However technology is not the only thing that assists researchers in the study of the brain; people who have suffered traumatic brain injury have equally aided scientist in understanding how the brain functions. One of the most remarkable examples of the impact a brain injury can have on a person’s life is that of Phinneas Gage. This case proves to be one of the first to confirm that damage to a person’s frontal cortex could result in a significant personality change despite other neurological functions remain intact. In September of 1848 an accidental explosion caused a 20 pound iron rod from the railroad...