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Macmillan, M. (2004). Inhibition and Phineas Gage: Repression and Sigmund Freud. Neuropsychoanalysis, 6(2):181-192.

(2004). Neuropsychoanalysis, 6(2):181-192

Inhibition and Phineas Gage: Repression and Sigmund Freud

Malcolm Macmillan

The similarities between the theories of thinking as inhibited action developed by David Ferrier and Sigmund Freud are examined in the context of the changes in the behavior of Phineas Gage, which Ferrier tried to explain with his inhibitory-motor theory. Johannes Müller's concept of will, its development by Alexander Bain, and Bain's influence on Ferrier's conceptualization of inhibitory centers localized in the frontal lobes are traced. Elements of the Bain-Ferrier theory found in Freud's theory of thinking, which do not derive from Brücke, Meynert, or Jackson, are itemized, and the implications of Freud's opting for a mechanism of inhibition that was basically excitatory is examined. Possible reasons for Ferrier's abandoning his concept of inhibitory centers are discussed and are contrasted with the reasons that Freud had for keeping to an excitatory conceptualization. The sensory-motor physiology of the day and its application to willing and thinking as inhibited action provide reasonably certain connections between Phineas Gage, David Ferrier, and Sigmund Freud.

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