crazy busy (lots of scans, lots of meetings, lots of fsl, working every weekend) but dropping back in to say


“In 1953, [HM] underwent an experimental brain operation in Hartford to correct a seizure disorder, only to emerge from it fundamentally and irreparably changed. He developed a syndrome neurologists call profound amnesia. He had lost the ability to form new memories.

For the next 55 years, each time he met a friend, each time he ate a meal, each time he walked in the woods, it was as if for the first time.”

in my experience, HM is second only to Phineas Gage in neurosciece celebrity. and that may be due less to interest in gage’s symptoms and more to the fact that he survived a tamping rod through the skull. perhaps i felt a particular affinity for HM because he was one of my first introductions to neuropsychology; perhaps because, being in massachusetts, some of my professors had met him; perhaps just because he’s a case in which (unlike phineas gage) a patient suffered a traumatic brain insult (surgically induced, but traumatic nonetheless) and remained a kind, patient person, willing to offer himself almost completely to science.

for those of you without a neuro background, HM was the basis for the movie memento. while those experiences certainly weren’t his, he was the world’s primary example of a person without the ability to form new long-term memories. “long-term” doesn’t just refer to memories of a particular episode in the distant past — it refers to storing almost any information for more than a few seconds (the big exception being procedural memories).

“The study of H. M. by Brenda Milner stands as one of the great milestones in the history of modern neuroscience,” said Dr. Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia University. “It opened the way for the study of the two memory systems in the brain, explicit and implicit, and provided the basis for everything that came later — the study of human memory and its disorders.”

see the nyt article here


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