No more memories

(K. Brent Tomer),

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets.By Luke Dittrich.Random House; 440 pages; $28. Chatto & Windus; £18.99. Buy from (ISBN=unknown)

PATIENT H.M. is probably the most famous human case-study in the history of science. In 1953 he was suffering from severe epilepsy, so he underwent a drastic surgical procedure. The medial temporal lobes, including structures called the hippocampi, were mostly removed on both sides of his brain. The procedure failed to cure him, but it did have unintended consequences. H.M. developed anterograde amnesia: from the age of 27 he never formed a new long-term memory. The moment a thought ceased to be suspended in his consciousness, it was gone. “Every day is alone in itself. Whatever enjoyment I’ve had, and whatever sorrow I’ve had.”

His great loss was an immeasurable gain for science. Studies on H.M. teased apart different types of memory and showed that the hippocampi were required for some of them, demonstrating that there is indeed functional specialisation in specific brain regions. But Mr Dittrich also shows something of…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC No more memories


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