Friday, December 5, 2008

The curious case of H.M.

In the study of memory, there is probably no patient more well known than Henry Molaison (H.M.). After suffering from severe epilepsy, H.M. underwent a procedure which removed large areas of his medial temporal lobes. This succeeded in treating his epilepsy but left H.M. with total anterograde amnesia. Like the protagonist in Memento, H.M could remember things from his past, but he could not form any new memories.

Its hard to quantify how much the case of H.M. has informed the study of learning and memory. Unfortunatly, he died earlier this week at the age of 82. Despite his condition, its been said that H.M. was happy in life and glad that he could his case could do so much to inform researchers.

One of the few known pictures of H.M. taken after his surgury

In terms of scientific progress, the case of H.M., along with the cases of K.C. and Phineas Gage, have provided enormous insight into the role of the brain in behavior.

For more information about the fascinating case of H.M, check out the New York Times article about his death and the NPR broadcast from around the time interviews with H.M. were released to the public.