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Description: You have very likely heard the story of Phineas Gage, a tale often told in introductory psychology classes to introduce a discussion of functions related to various portions of the brain and to the executive control functions related to the frontal lobes in particular (if not there is a section in the linked article about Phineas or you can have a look at the links in the Further Reading section below). Early functional mapping of brain regions was largely conducted by looking for changes or losses in peoples’ behavior following known brain damage due to injury, surgery or stroke. Most of those case-study-based stories are stories of bad news, of loss of language, motor control, or higher level behavioral inhibitions or planning skills. But might it be possible that some things could improve following such damage? Think about if or how such changes might be possible and then read the article linked below to see what research has shown.

Source: When personality changes from bad to good, Christian Jarrett, BBC, Personology, Psychology.

Date: January 9, 2018

Photo Credit:  Alamy

Links:  Article Link –

So, positive changes in behavior following brain damage or injury are possible (over 20% of the time according to the research reported). As well, it can reduce the likelihood of PTSD in some cases as well. Psychosurgery has a dark reputation (for many good reasons) but perhaps the ability to surgically “dial back” areas of the brain that are causing issues may be something we will see in the future.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are several of the behavioral changes that have been linked to brain damage, stroke, etc?
  2. How might some brain damage produce positive changes in behavior?
  3. Are there any particular ethical issues we will need to consider if research in this area starts to move towards any form of surgical “brain tuning”?

References (Read Further):

King, M. L., Manzel, K., Bruss, J., & Tranel, D. (2017). Neural correlates of improvements in personality and behavior following a neurological event. Neuropsychologia.

Damasio, H., Grabowski, T., Frank, R., Galaburda, A. M., & Damasio, A. R. (1994). The return of Phineas Gage: clues about the brain from the skull of a famous patient. Science, 264(5162), 1102-1105.

Siggelkow, N. (2007). Persuasion with case studies. The Academy of Management Journal, 50(1), 20-24.

Ratiu, P., Talos, I. F., Haker, S., Lieberman, D., & Everett, P. (2004). The tale of Phineas Gage, digitally remastered. Journal of neurotrauma, 21(5), 637-643.