Monday, February 26, 2007

H.M. and Memories

"Once they find out about me, it helps them to help other people." Henry M. on NPR

that from H.M., a man who has lost his short-term memory due to a lifesaving operation that stopped him from having seizures. this has helped neuroscientists figure out that memory takes up more space in the brain than previously thought.
Henry's current status:

As for Henry's current status, he lives in a nursing home in Hartford and still travels occasionally to MIT for memory testing. He enjoys doing crossword puzzles and watching detective shows on television. His life is peaceful, if not completely happy. He worries often that he has done something wrong, and it is not possible for him to make any real friends since he cannot remember a person from ten minutes to the next. At times, he seems to have a sense of humor about his condition, as in the following anecdote taken from his biography, Memory's Ghost: The Strange Tale of Mr. M. and the Nature of Memory, by Philip Hilts:

When walking down the corridor at M.I.T. with Henry, Dr. Suzanne Corkin made the usual kind of small talk. "Do you know where you are, Henry?"

Henry grinned. "Why, of course. I'm at M.I.T.!"

Dr. Corkin was a bit surprised. "How do you know that?"

Henry laughed. He pointed to a student nearby with a large M.I.T. emblazoned on his sweatshirt. "Got ya that time!" Henry said.

Mainly, though, he leads a life of quiet confusion, never knowing exactly how old he is (he guesses maybe thirty and is always surprised by his reflection in the mirror) and reliving his grief over the death of his mother every time he hears about it. Though he does not recall his operation, he knows that there is something wrong with his memory and has adopted a philosophical stance on his problems: "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."

memory studies at
montreal neurological institute
american academy of neurology