Index Home About Blog
From: B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Can a cell grow new mitochondria after they have been damaged by 
	free radicals?
Date: 15 Aug 1998 23:43:40 GMT

In <> "Robert W. McAdams"
<> writes:

>Steven B. Harris wrote:
>> >Yes. You would not be the same person. But what if a human being has a
>> >soul? Would the "soul" stay with the person so that some of the
>> >persons personality would stay intact?
>> No. There are many cases of people who've lost all their memories
>> through head injury. Their families generally don't regard them as the
>> same person (though they sometimes grow to love the twin; human drives
>> are not totally rational, and the new person looks and smells the same,
>> and probably is quickly much the same in bed).
>>                                                Steve Harris, M.D.
>I must admit that I'm a bit skeptical of this, having worked for several
>years with a patient who was suffering from severe dementia
>(characterized by severe aphasia, aphasic perseveration, and apraxia). He
>was found (via a histological examination of his brain performed during
>an autopsy) to have been suffering from severe Alzheimer's disease,
>severe multi-infarct dementia, and severe stenosis of his cerebral
>Although there were significant changes in his behavior as his condition
>progressed, I became convinced in the end that there were no changes in
>his underlying personality, but merely in the circumstances that
>personality had to face.

    That's occationally true.  However, work with more than a few head
injured patients, and you'll soon find it's not a generally rule.  The
famous history of Phineas Gage, the 19th century mining foreman who got
the frontal lobotomy from the tamping iron, comes to mind.  He went
from quiet, reserved, responsible, caring family man, to gross, vulgar,
impulsive irresponsible slob who could not hold a job or plan for the
future.  That was the first indication of what your frontal lobes do
for you.  There are many other ways of being brain damaged which change
personality in other ways.

    Once upon a time neurologists and psycologists thought that a
person's basic personality (temperment) was a fixed feature of them,
and (I'm sure) the religious among them equated this with the "soul."
Prozac changed that view for good, and it (the view of permanent
temperment) undergoes new assaults daily as our drugs get more powerful
and more specific.   Who you are is plastic.  It depends on what's
working in your brain, and what isn't working.  Some people are
threatened by this, I realize.

                                       Steve Harris, M.D.

Index Home About Blog