Henry Molaison gifted the scientific community with one of the most important brains the world has ever known.
Henry Molaison underwent an experimental lobotomy in 1953 that robbed him of his long-term memory – he was unable to recall any new memories after 20 seconds elapsed — but gifted the scientific community with one of the most important brains the world has ever known. After his loss, H.M., as he is known to generations of scientists and psychology students, agreed to participate in a wide range of clinical studies that have been responsible for radically improving our understanding of brain function and how it relates to memory.
John Gabrieli, a professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studied H.M. extensively in the 1980s, describes just how influential H.M.’s brain is:
“In the field of neuroscience, he’s a celebrity, because he’s in every textbook, every introductory psychology course, every college student who’s studied psychology or neuroscience reads about him. No more has been learned from a single brain in the last century than H.M.’s.”
H.M., who died in December 2008, agreed in 1992 to donate his brain to scientific study so that his contribution to our understanding of the brain would continue after his passing. His donation has resulted in the H.M. Project, which is being run by The Brain Observatory at the University of California, San Diego. The Project, which is currently being livestreamed, will see H.M.’s brain sliced into 2,400 – 2,500 pieces just 70 microns thin (70 millionths of a meter), which can then be magnified to give researchers their best understanding yet of the brain’s internal structures.
If you are interested in learning more or seeing the livstreaming, head over to The Brain Observatory website and catch them as they cut the medial temporal lobes and the area surrounding the hippocampus today.