Image of HM and 50 Years of Memory Research HM and 50 Years of Memory Research
Brain Section, HM, The Brain Observatory, University of California, San Diego, 2010

As a young man in 1953, HM suffered from crippling epilepsy that made it impossible to live independently. Convinced that removing part of HM’s brain would help, a surgeon cut out most of his hippocampus, the area with the most abnormal activity. HM’s epilepsy was mitigated, but tragically he lost his ability to form long-term memories. Professor Suzanne Corkin met HM in 1962 when she was a graduate student, and her study of him continues today. Corkin’s sensitive investigations, as well as those of nearly 100 other scientists, have taught us that specific parts of the brain are responsible for long-term memory, that profound memory impairment can leave overall intelligence intact, and that one can still learn a motor skill or other kinds of knowledge without being aware of that fact. HM died in 2008, but he is still contributing to science. Close scrutiny of the thin sections made from his brain will enable scientists to learn the exact location and extent of his lesion, which is the key to understanding the correlation between the brain and behavior. As Corkin observed in her eulogy for HM: “He has given the world a remarkable understanding of learning and memory.”

Exhibited:
Brain Section, HM
The Brain Observatory, University of California, San Diego
2010

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