” He knew his name. That much he could remember. He knew that his father’s 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” (New York Times)
HM or Henry Gustav Molaison is one of the most famous cases in Neuroscience and one of my favorites. At 9 years old he banged his head hard after being hit by a bicycle rider in his neighborhood. At that time, MRI and PET scans were not available or even in existent. HM had started to develop seizures and by the time he was around 27 was suffering from devastating convulsions and could not hold a job. He found himself in Dr. William Beecher Socville’s office, a neurosurgeon at Hartford Hospital. After tests and treatments that were not working. Surgery was planned, details would include removal of the hippocampus, amygdala, and both frontal hemispheres of the brain. Socville took more out then plan due to the fact that he could not see really what parts he was taking out. This would leave HM stuck in the year 1953. HM though could learn new things without awareness but would not know how he learned these tasks that he was given. He would live with his parents for the reminder of their lives, then with a relative, later he was placed in a nursing home till his death in 2008, he was 82 years old. His brain was given to science to be preserved and sliced so that we may have a better understanding on what it was like to be HM.
The reason that this case is so important is because it shows what happens to the brain when you remove important parts that store new memories. If I was unable to remember things such as what my homework was for the day or what classes I had there would be no way that I would be able to be a productive member of society. This case raises the question on why memory is so important and that even when we are unaware to our surrounding we are forming new experiences. HM was unable to do that, everything was new to him all the time. Every interaction and every day was a new day as if he were waking up from a dream.
Bringing this to an idea that I have on why we tell stories is because it is through our daily interactions and conversations that we are able to form some type of story. The reason books are so important is because they show us what life is like or could be like. They paint together pictures of the past, present, and future in order for us as a human race to move forward.
“We must turn our backs upon the horror of the past. We must look to the future. We cannot afford to drag across the years that are to come the hatred and revenges which have sprung from the injuries of the past.” – Sir Winston Churchill
Links: http://thebrainobservatory.ucsd.edu/hm_live.php (Watch some cool brain slicing done by University of California at San Diego)
http://thebrainobservatory.ucsd.edu/content/leaf-through-brain (What happens after the brain is sliced, they have to be extremely careful when laying the brain on the slide, nobody wants to look at a ripped brain.)