A Movement Toward Localization: 1848 and After

Phineas Gage
Phineas Gage
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Perhaps one of the most interesting cases in the history of neuroscience, Phineas Gage is widely known among educated circles as the main who was injured by a steel rod while working on the railroad. The skull went through his skull and brain and then back out into the sky. For a more detailed explanation see the Damasio article (1994).
The case of Gage was important because it allowed scientists to look at the localization of brain function in a more promising light. Gage did not suffer any loss of intellectual capacity, but the change in his personality was purportedly pronounced (Kihlstrom, 2010).

Paul Broca and Localization of Speech
In 1861, Paul Broca received a patient for a brief period, named Monsieur Leborgne. This man was dying and exhibited signs of epilepsy, and loss of speech. This case study became known among scientific circles as the Tan case, due to repeated utterances of a word that sounded like tan (Finger, 1994).
This case proved instrumental in the localism/holism debate. It was a terrific step in the direction of localization because it presented very detailed scientific evidence that ran counter to the locations stated by phrenologists. This case also helped get a wider audience of scientists willing and interested to listen to the ideas being presented.
Nine years later, in 1870, Eduard Hitzig and Gustav Fritsch discovered the motor cortical area of a dog in a very monumental experiment. This discovery provided evidence that ran counter to Flourens’ previous belief that the cortex was not involved with the control of movement (Finger, 1994, p. 38).
Further support for the localization side came from Carl Wernicke and his use of aphasias to demonstrate deficits in semantic organization. His research was spurred by the publishings of Broca from years earlier Finger, 1994; Fancher, 2012). As we move through this century we find that the localization/holism debate is an important one for the field of neuroscience. More and more people begin to advocate that functions are localized as the century progresses; new, safer procedures for performing
brain surgery begin to be developed by American brain surgeon William Keen, Jr.( Walker, 1998).
The century closes with many new advancements and discoveries concerning the brain, and sets the stage for continued study of the brain in the 1900s.

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