Friday, December 4, 2009

There is my mind

Here lies the brain of H.M., the most famous patient in memory research. He died last year at the age of 82, after over five decades of being intently studied by neuroscientists. When he was 9, he was hit by a bicyclist, and began suffering epileptic seizures -- up to 11 each week. In his mid-twenties, he underwent a lobotomy which essentially made the seizures go away, but also mistakenly took away his ability to remember anything new.  So if you asked him at 6 p.m. what he'd had for lunch that day, he couldn't say. Yet most of his memory up until the surgery remained intact. For example, while he was never able to remember new acquaintances again, he remembered his mother. And after she passed away, he experienced grief each time he learned of her death -- again and again. Though it's difficult to grasp how he perceived his life, he once said:
"It does get me upset, but I always say to myself, what is to be is to be. That's the way I always figure it now."
Thank you, H.M., for all that we have learned from you, and your 2,401 brain slices which the U.C. San Diego Brain Observatory will now be studying. And for those minds whose whereabouts we are still looking for, thank you Maxence Cyrin for taking on the search.