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Reflections on H.M., a man who couldn't remember

December 8, 2009 | 11:59 am

Molaison Memories can haunt, torment, energize, sustain, amuse, irritate ... and most people take their abilities to form them for granted. A man who couldn't do this managed to teach the rest of us.

"Henry Molaison lived in relative obscurity, but he possessed one of the world's most famous brains. Known to generations of scientists and psychology students as H.M., Molaison lost the ability to form new memories after surgery removed part of his brain and, by agreeing to be studied over several decades, transformed the way we understand memory. H.M. died last December, but science isn't done with his brain..."

So begins today's story in the L.A. Times. Read more.

For more on memory and how it works, McGill University in Montreal offers this primer: The Brain From Top to Bottom.

From NPR, we have audio recordings of Molaison and Brenda Milner, who studied Molaison for years. Hear his voice, and read the transcript here.

Here's a reprint from the original article about Molaison by Milner and surgeon William Beecher Scoville. It was published in 1957 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

And, finally, there's this reflection, published earlier this year in the McGill Science Undergrad Research Journal, shortly after Molaison's death a year ago.

— Tami Dennis

Photo: Henry G. Molaison, long known only as H.M., is shown in the 1970s, years after the surgery that devastated his memory.