The Case of Phineas Gage

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Part I
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The case of Phineas Gage is one of the most often cited in biological psychology. Explain what we can learn about the relationship between brain and behaviour from this and similar cases and describe techniques used by biological psychologists that can supplement our knowledge of this relationship.

This essay explains what can be learnt about the relationship between brain and behaviour using the case of Phineas Gage and imaging techniques. It starts by briefly describing neurons. It then goes on to look at what can be learnt by studying accidental brain damages and the effect they can have on behaviour using Phineas Gage’s case. This essay acknowledges that there are limitations on what can be learnt from accidental brain lesions and looks at how non-accidental damages and brain imaging techniques used by biological psychologists contribute and supplement the understanding of the relationship between brain function and behaviour.

Psychologists have suggested that behaviour emerges from interaction between brain and environment. Environmental stimuli are sent to the brain via neurons which are cells specialised to communicate, process the information about the stimuli and exert behaviour. The brain consists of some 100 billion of neurons that are inter-connected and communicate by means of electrical signals via synapses to form neural networks (Toates, 2007). However when brain damage occurs, ‘the neurons in the damaged area known as lesion’, (Toates, 2007, p.267) die and changes the activity of synapses resulting to alteration in the neural network. This alteration affects behaviour and psychological disorders emerge. Consequently the alteration of behaviour suggests that the area of damage contributed to the normal or previous behaviour.

Furthermore studying accidental brain damage provides insight to brain activity and behaviour, for example Phineas Gage had an accident particular to his frontal lobe with severe injury to his left...
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