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Cognitive Functions - Phineas Gage

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Explain the role of the brain in cognitive functions. Part of the explanation, describe what Phineas Gage's accident revealed about how brain areas support cognitive function. Please note this needs to include a description of the accident and its effect, but must also include the knowledge gained about brain functions involved in cognition.

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Solution Preview

One approach to help you with a paper assignment like this one is to provide an outline and information for each section to consider for your final copy, written in your words. This is the approach this response takes.

Let's take a closer look.


There are different ways to organize a paper like this. One way is as follows:

I. Introduction

II. Theories of the Role of the Brain in Cognition
A. Phrenology
B. Holistic Approach
C. Midway Approach

III. Case of Phineas Gage (tie it back to the theoretical approaches)

IV. Conclusion

Now let's look at some information to consider for each section. If you want to organize it differently, you can still draw on the information.


1. Explain the role of the brain in cognitive functions.

Historically, there have been two mayor views on the localization of higher cognitive functions, the phrenology and the reaction to phrenology, the holistic approach. Today, however, due to new evidence coming in, such as the case of Phineas Gage's accident, most scientists take a more middle ground approach (Cognitive Functions, 2008). The purpose of this paper is to describe the role of the brain in cognitive function. Specifically, this paper...

1. Phrenological Approach

One view, in its extreme form, is phrenology, which postulated that all cognitive abilities and personality traits had specific areas of the brain that controlled each one separately. This view was discarded in the first decades of this century, mainly because most of the proponents of phrenology did not follow rigorous scientific methods (Cognitive Functions, 2008).

2. Holistic Approach

The second view, hence derived from opposition to the phrenologists, postulated that higher cognitive functions and traits could only be localized in the cerebral cortex, but that the cortex functioned as a whole, with any part of it could substitute for the functions of another. It also postulated that the effects on cognitive functions due to cortical lesions was due to the extent of damaged tissue, but not on the localization of it. This holistic view gained much acceptance, and nearly neutralized all of the phrenologists postulates(Cognitive Functions).

However, soon clinical observations contradicted the holistic view, particularly the consistent observation that aphasias (language distinctions) occurred when either of two specific brain regions were lesioned. These areas are the Brocca and Wernicke areas of the cortex. These areas are localized only in the left hemisphere of the brain in over 80% of the population, and can be anatomically localized. Broca's area is localized just beneath the motor cortex that controls face movement, and is specialized in the expression of language (Cognitive Functions, 2008). In fact, research and clinical observations have shown that patients with lesion of this area can understand language and conversation, even complex abstract ...

Solution Summary

The solution is written in paragraph format, giving 1770 words on the various approaches to determining the role of the brain in cognition. References are provided in APA format. Other links are also provided for further investigation,