Wednesday, December 03, 2008

We Won't Forget You

The famous amnesic patient H.M. has died. From Dr. Suzanne Corkin (MIT):
Henry G. Molaison, 82, of Windsor Locks, CT died on Tuesday. He is known in the medical and scientific literatures as "the amnesic patient, H.M." He was born in Manchester, CT and graduated from East Hartford High School. In 1953, he underwent an experimental brain operation at the Hartford Hospital to relieve his seizure disorder. Immediately after the operation, Mr. Molaison showed a profound amnesia, which became the topic of intense scientific study for more than five decades. From age 27 on, he was unable to establish new memories for events in his everyday life and to acquire general information about the world in which he lived. His memory impairment was "pure" and not accompanied by intellectual or personality disorders. For this reason, and because the operation has not been repeated, he is the most widely studied and famous case in the neuroscience literature of the 20th and 21st centuries. Mr. Molaison's contributions to knowledge about memory have been groundbreaking, and researchers worldwide are in his debt. Burial will be private.
via Dr. Vivienne Ming.

See Mind Hacks for more info about the significance of H.M.'s contribution to the neuropsychology of memory.

Figure 1 (Corkin, 2002). Multiplanar views of 18 averaged T1-weighted MRI volumes showing preserved structures in H.M.’s MTL. This magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan was obtained on 15 December 1998. The images are based on data averaged over 18 runs; images were motion corrected using the first scan (out of the 18 axials) as a reference. The asterisk marks the intersection of the three viewing planes, just caudal to the left medial temporal lobe (MTL) resection, seen best in the transaxial view. Top left, sagittal view; bottom left, coronal view; bottom right, transaxial view; top right, surface rendering showing locations of transaxial and coronal planes. Abbreviations: CS, collateral sulcus; EC, entorhinal cortex; H, hippocampus; L, left; PH, parahippocampal gyrus; R, right.

Coda (from Corkin, 2002):

H.M. is now 75 years old. His mobility is markedly reduced because of osteoporosis, another side effect of phenytoin (Dilantin). Although he is in relatively good health, plans are in place for the post-mortem examination of his brain when he dies. He and his court-appointed conservator have both signed his brain donation form, ensuring that the final chapter in his lifelong contribution to science will include a precise description of his brain and documentation of his lesion. His wish to help other people will have been fulfilled. Sadly, however, he will remain unaware of his fame and of the impact that his participation in research has had on scientific and medical communities internationally.

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