Image: John Darrell Van Horn/UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging
In 1848, railroad foreman Phineas Gage entered the annals of neuroscience with one unfortunate accident - an explosion shot an iron rod straight up his head. Amazingly, he didn't die - but the damage to his brain changed his personality so much that his friends said he was "no longer Gage."
Now, 164 years later, scientists have mapped the Phineas Gage brain pathways for the first time:
... how does one reconstruct the connectome of someone who died more than 150 years ago, and whose brain no longer even exists? Van Horn and his colleagues used high-resolution CT scans of Gage's skull, from a 2004 study that digitally reconstructed the trajectory of the iron rod as it passed through his brain, and examined the data again to re-estimate its path as accurately as possible.
They then selected structural MRI and DTI data from 110 healthy people from the LONI Image Data Archive. All of these data came from men aged between 25 (Gage's age at the time of his accident) and 36 (the age at which he died). The researchers combined these data to produce a generalized map of the long-range connections in the human brain, and used computational modelling to project the passage of the rod onto it.