Franklin and Phineas Gage

Some healthy frontal lobe development was underway in Portland Public Schools this morning..!

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Noggin volunteers were invited by the Academic Youth Development (AYD) program, a summer effort by PPS to socially and academically prepare new 9th graders for arrival in high schools this fall…

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Our outreach participants included Allie Clark, Jessica Patching-Bunch and Erin McConnell from Psychology at Portland State University, Christina Anne Williams and Joey Seuferling from Neuroscience at WSU Vancouver, and Justin Caouette, a recently arrived post-doc from the TRAC lab at OHSU

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We introduced ourselves to 60+ students from Franklin High School, explained what we each studied, and made a strong pitch for neuroscience, psychology  –  and art  –  as compelling, viable education and career options to explore for anyone curious about their own brains…

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We described neurons, neural networks, and cortical lobes, and how brain areas contribute specifically to behavior.  We answered questions about migraines, the sense of deja vu, and how the brain changes with experience.  Justin spoke about his interest and research in neurodevelopment, and how social engagement contributes to emotional and behavioral health consequences in teenagers…

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And of course we examined brains!

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We identified the medial prefrontal cortex, blasted through by an iron tamping rod in Phineas Gage, a railroad construction foreman who survived his grisly 19th century accident but who, after injury, “was no longer Gage.”

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SOURCE:  What Really Happened to Phineas Gage?

His personality changed dramatically, at least initially, and he had trouble organizing activities.  He was impulsive, failing to inhibit inappropriate social behaviors.  Some accounts suggest that his social abilities eventually improved, over time.  However, Gage’s damaged networks, in the frontal lobes, are currently undergoing dramatic change in these new 9th graders  –  and many seemed intrigued!

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While students hefted cerebrums and asked more questions, our volunteers queried others waiting their turns about the various lobes and their functional associations…

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Many thanks to teacher Lucinda Peterson, who invited us to Franklin High!

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