Skull of Phineas Gage

by LabsOfCognitiveNeuroscience Mar 21, 2016
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First of all, I want to say thank you! I am an 8th-grade science teacher and we talk about the human body and one of the activities we do is about Phineas Gage. Last year, I was able to get a couple of 8th graders to take on printing this! It turned out awesome. My biggest question is how you cleared all the supports! I had students work on it but there are still lots left behind. Any tools you found worked best? Thanks again!

Hi, I'm a psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist at Cazenovia College in upstate NY, and I teach many classes in biopsychology and cognitive psychology. I would love to have a copy of this to use in almost all of my classes, given the importance of the prefrontal cortex to almost every area of psychology. We have two 3d printers on campus due to our graphic design program, but one of our graphic design professors got errors when he tried to print the bottom half of the skull. Both of his printers stopped in exactly the same spot (roughly the top of the brow ridge). The larger printer even had what looked like a burn mark at the place where it stopped. I tried printing this through Print-A-Thing and the service said that the STL file had an error and wouldn't even let me order.

Does anyone know what is going on? I can take and upload photos of the aborted prints if that helps.

We were able to print the fetal brains models from the LabsOfCognitiveNeuroscience, and those turned out great!

Ezra Wegbreit

Did you ever get a copy of the skull? I still have the file and I could have my 8th graders make another copy this year during our unit on the human body!


This is likely a problem with the slicer that you guys are using. What printer, slicer and host does your graphic design program use?

It's odd that the printer just stops at the same point. Is the printer tethered to a computer or is the file on the printer itself?

Does a smaller, say 1/4 scale, version of the skull print OK?

Here is the response I received back from the other instructor:
1) Using the XYZ printing software that comes with the Da Vinci printer.
2) Using the default printer settings for slicing
3) The print stopped at the same location on both the smaller XYZ printer (his printer) and the larger XYZ printer (the College's).

I also tried to submit the files to each of the three services that print things for you on here (Print-a-Thing, NinjaPrototype, and Treatstock) and the first two state there is some problem with the files that they cannot fix. Treatstock states that it can print it for $50-$75 but they want me to "acknowledge that Treatstock, nor the manufacturer, are responsible for the size, flaws of the design itself, the applicability of the product for any purpose, or the use of goods ordered". (They left out the word "neither", I think!). So I am worried that it will come in too small or brittle.

Any ideas about what to do next? I think that this is an awesome classroom tool because it is based on a real-life case that every psychology student learns about at some point. It really brings the point home that we are talking about real people, not just some abstract concepts. :)

Hi Ezra, happy to send you a copy when my printer frees up. Drop me a private message.

Hay I just got done printing the bottom half but when I try to print the top it said that the file was no longer there so I tried to print the bottom agin and it said the same thing. Do you have any suggestions?

I'm sorry that I missed this comment. I would suggest deleting the files that you have on your machine and then downloading the files fresh again.

This is absolutely fantastic, thank you so much for sharing!
I understand they scanned the life mask as part of the same project, is there any chance of making that model available as well?

I'm not seeing a reference in the Ratiu paper regarding the scanning of the life mask. I didn't re-read the entire article though, but I did do searches on life, mask, lifemask and scan. All without reference to the scanning of the life mask. Can you cite more specifically where this study scanned the life mask?



This is the article which mentions a scan of the life mask, they did it to overlay on top of the skull scan to better estimate the damage done. Rereading the article now, it looks like it was an entirely different group. That's a pity. The life mask always humanized Gage more for me.

Hmmm, it says that a scan of the life mask was 'obtained', but didn't state how or from whom.

I'd encourage you to take a crack at contacting the lead author of the paper inquiring into the origin and availability of that scan. I've found that scientists are generally eager to share this sort of thing if it's for an educational purpose. Feel free to include the link to this 3D model so they can get an idea of what you'd like to do. Chances are that they haven't seen this physical model yet and will get excited about it.

Seeing opportunities like these is exactly where normal people can jump in and make a contribution to science education, and I think it's a really exciting time for this sort of thing.

Take care,

Good news. As a researcher at the Surgical Planning Lab, I was able to locate the CT DICOM scan of the Phineas Gage bust / life mask along with the original CT scan that I believe Graham worked from. Turns out I was on the hunt for this data set recently for a different project and just now happened to see this discussion thread.

It will take me a little while to work up the data, but it does exist and is in-hand.

Response from lead author of said paper.

"Thank you for your kind words on our paper. Just FYI, I personally delivered a DVD with the scans in question to the Warren Museum back in 2013 or so. They would surely have this. I am travelling in Europe this week and wouldn’t be able to scour my files till next week at the earliest.

As for 3D printing, I had long wanted to do this myself (even using the tools you and your team employed to do it) <Note, I think he may have misunderstood the concept of thingverse, who is responsible for scan, as well as who I am.> But, alas, I had no ready access to a 3D printer and couldn’t otherwise justify the cost of purchasing one myself. What you guys have done looks great! If you ever have a spare printing you could send me, I’d be delighted. And I’d be happy to pay for shipping, if needed.

I hope this is helpful!

With kindest regards,

Jack Van Horn"

As an update, I am working with the Warren Anatomical Museum regarding the files. I do not know what format they are in, or if they can be converted to STL. More information as it becomes available

Hello there, I know it's been almost six months now...are you still working with Warren Anatomical Museum? Thanks!

Jeremy- OK, here you go. The lifecast file is now up.

Phineas Gage Lifecast (lifemask)

Still working with them as things come up.

Regarding the life mask, I have let this project gather too much dust. I need to clean the file up and post it. Work gets in the way. The life mask file is coming. I may post an unoptimized version so people can play with that. I will try to do that tomorrow.

This is very exciting news. Part of me is terrified at the cost of printing such an object, but mostly I am incredibly enthusiastic to begin work on such a project. I just seriously hope the thing will wind up hallow, so it's not a solid 15lbs of printed material. :)

Wonderful model, thank you! I printed at 0.2mm layer height and I shrunk the model a tad bit. It fits an ikea pencil at I think 75% scale perfectly. I glued the two halves together with gorilla glue epoxy. Most flaws are internal so they will not be seen if you clean the supports sufficiently.

My make is here: http://www.thingiverse.com/make:306781

Thanks again for the stunning model!

Skull of Phineas Gage

Thank you for posting your make of the skull, I'm glad that you liked it.

Once the print settings are dialed in, I've found that the most tedious part of this model is cleaning it up so that it is presentable. I'm currently printing another copy and this one I think I will glue together as it will be doing a bit of traveling to recruitment events and whatnot, so I think it's best to keep that together.

Indeed, if you aren't interested in looking inside the skull, then gluing the halves together is a really good option.

I am going to try Testor's Model Cement as that seems to be a go to adhesive for PLA 3D printed models. If that doesn't hold, I may have to get some Gorilla Glue Epoxy.

Amazing print. I work at At-Bristol Science Centre and we're planning to use this skull to engage the public with both 3D printing AND how the brain works. Thank you very much for sharing your work.

Wow cool random find on thingiverse!

I found your thing from a featured collection, Best of 2016? by glitchpudding.

Definitely interested in the history of this now and have me reading your post and googling ;)

Wow cool random find on thingiverse!

I found your thing from a featured collection, Best of 2016? by glitchpudding.

Definitely interested in the history of this now and have me reading your post and googling ;)

Comments deleted.

Wow. This is absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for access to this file. I am an English teacher in Cecil County, MD, and have taught about Phineas to my class for five years. I have done a lot of work in using 3D printing to teach about Phineas Gage, but the models we have used in the past were not actually Phineas's skull, and so it is so exciting to be able to share this.

Here is a blog I did about how educators can use 3d printing to teach about Phineas: http://dellosso.weebly.com/blog/category/phineas-gage

I am excited to print your version and share it with my 8th grade students.

Again, this is incredible. Thanks so much for your work and for sharing with the community. It is incredible to see a printable model of the actual skull via 3d scanning; this is really a quintessential example of how 3d printing can enhance education.

Your comment made my day. I had actually attempted to contact you when I initially published this thing, but it looks like that message never made it to you.

I am so excited that you will be using this in your classroom. Something that I thought might be fun in a classroom would be to explore the skull digitally as well. The file opens fine in Meshmixer and you can manipulate and zoom in in a way that you can't quite do in real life. I actually just made a short movie showing the likely path of the tamping iron. It doesn't want to upload to thingiverse at the moment, but I'll try to sort that out.

Once you do print this, I'd love to see a picture of it in the classroom setting. I'm sure that the folks at the Warren Anatomical Museum would love to see those pictures as well.

This sort of use of the object is exactly why I started this project and it is very gratifying to see you use it.

Thank you,

I printed this at 30% of the original size and came out perfect thank you.

Thanks for the comment Damrin. I'm working on a white paper describing how I went about sourcing the files and converting them to a printable .stl file. While I am a member of a research lab, I think that citizen scientists out there could gain access to scans of interesting objects by trolling through Google Scholar and then sending some well crafted e-mails.

This project was a challenge to myself, but I hope that it will inspire others to do some digging of their own. Scans of historic artifacts have been done, it's just a matter of gaining access, converting to a new format and distributing them to the masses.

When you do print it, let me know if you run into issues. If it does print well, I'd love to see a picture of it.

This really is great, and I hope that you can bring us more neat stuff like this in the future! I plan on printing this for a doc I work with. I will be sure to post my make!!

thanks for the history