If you’ve ever dabbled in neuroscience (or work at a neuroscience-based company, like I do) you may have come across the story of “H.M.” H.M. was a man who had brain surgery in the 1950s to stop severe seizures. The surgeon ended up removing large pieces of H.M.’s brain. The result: far fewer seizures, and an almost complete inability to form new long-term memories. For the rest of his life, H.M. suffered from severe anterograde amnesia: he could remember very little that had happened more than 30 minutes ago, unless it had happened before the surgery.
H.M. became an object of fascination among neuroscientists. By studying him, they learned a tremendous amount about how (and where) the brain forms different types of memories. World-famous neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran credits H.M. with starting a revolution in the study of memory that led to tremendous advancements in our understanding of the human brain.
H.M. recently passed away, so we have finally learned his real name: Henry Gustav Molaison. In life, he lent his brain to science–and now he’s doing the same in death. Last week, scientists at the University of California, San Diego began the process of digitally recording minute slices of Molaison’s brain so that we can continue to learn from him.
For a great story about Henry Molaison and his continuing contribution to neuroscience, read this article from the Brain Connection website.