Man survived iron rod through brain
In 1898, Phineas Gage was stuffing gunpowder into a drill hole with an iron rod to help blast rock clear for a railway. A premature explosion thrust the 6-kg rod clean through his skull and out the other side. Instant death, right? Well, no. Gage survived - but he was a different man, his personality changed from affable to irascible. Now a neuroscience team led by Jack Van Horn of UCLA has figured it out. The rod destroyed about 4% of the brain tissue but ten percent of the "white matter" that links the major lobes together. While it remains amazing - doctors at the time understandably called it a miracle - that Gage lived another 12 years, the case sheds some light on modern research about what damage in a given location does to the functioning of the whole brain - and being.