As December began we reported on the imminent sectioning of the brain of Henry Molaison, or H.M., whose inability to form new memories has fascinated neuroscientists for decades. Many other articles, both about H.M. specifically and memory more generally, have appeared in the weeks since the sectioning.
Dana’s Brain in the News advisor, Guy McKhann, made H.M. the subject of his December commentary. McKhann provides a neuroscientist’s first-person perspective on why the continuing study of Molaison’s brain is important.
In addition to the San Diego Union-Tribune article we mentioned in our initial coverage, the Hartford Courant published an in-depth piece about Molaison on Nov. 29. On Dec. 4, after the sectioning had begun, a public radio program in San Diego featured a conversation with researcher Jacopo Annese of the University of California, San Diego (who was in charge of the sectioning) and Dana Alliance member Suzanne Corkin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (who studied Molaison extensively during his life and wrote briefly about him in a 2008 Cerebrum book review). CNN also posted a story that day about Molaison.
Just this week, the New York Times published a piece that focuses less on Molaison and more on the dissection technique, which resulted in about 2,500 paper-thin slices of the brain. The scientists in charge plan to extend the process to many other donated brains, both normal and abnormal, and put up digital reproductions of slices online for access by researchers worldwide. This combination of precision and accessibility should open new doors in the study of brain anatomy, the researchers say.
And what of memory in general? This past week, Canada’s National Post has run a series of well-thought-out articles that delve deeply into the subject, with a couple of passing mentions of H.M. but a much broader approach; first on the list is “Is [Memory] What Makes Us Human?” A related podcast features an interview with the author of the series, Joseph Brean.