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H. M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82

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nsd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:05 AM
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H. M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82
New York Times obit

By BENEDICT CAREY
Published: December 4, 2008

He knew his name. That much he could remember.

He knew that his fathers family came from Thibodaux, La., and his mother was from Ireland, and he knew about the 1929 stock market crash and World War II and life in the 1940s.

But he could remember almost nothing after that.

In 1953, he underwent an experimental brain operation in Hartford to correct a seizure disorder, only to emerge from it fundamentally and irreparably changed. He developed a syndrome neurologists call profound amnesia. He had lost the ability to form new memories.

For the next 55 years, each time he met a friend, each time he ate a meal, each time he walked in the woods, it was as if for the first time.

And for those five decades, he was recognized as the most important patient in the history of brain science. As a participant in hundreds of studies, he helped scientists understand the biology of learning, memory and physical dexterity, as well as the fragile nature of human identity.

On Tuesday evening at 5:05, Henry Gustav Molaison known worldwide only as H. M., to protect his privacy died of respiratory failure at a nursing home in Windsor Locks, Conn. His death was confirmed by Suzanne Corkin, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who had worked closely with him for decades. Henry Molaison was 82.
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TwilightGardener Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:11 AM
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1. What a life. Sad to have no memories, or learning experiences to draw from.
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nsd Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 11:20 AM
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2. He did achieve a strange sort of immortality.
Not only professional neuroscientists, but everyone who has taken an introductory psychology or neuroscience class will have heard of him (well, his initials at least). And Milner's work from the 1950s and 1960s has been immensely influential.

I had known that H.M. was still alive, but I was still taken aback to read his obituary. H.M. is so much a part of the basic fabric of brain science that it's hard not to think of him as a figure from the very distant past, like Cajal or Golgi or someone like that. I wonder what Milner thinks; she's still alive.

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wryter2000 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-05-08 12:02 PM
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3. Wow
I had no idea he was still alive. Anyone who took Psych 1 knew of H. M.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-07-08 12:58 AM
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4. I know a guy who has that same kind of amnesia because of a stroke.
Edited on Sun Dec-07-08 12:59 AM by Odin2005
It's very horrible, it's really impossible to call it "living". :cry:


I remember hearing on a show that one of the few things HM remembered that occurred after his surgery was the assasination of JFK.

May you RIP, Henry Molaison.
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