Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Brain Surgery Patient Trapped in a Mental Time Warp 338

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-I-leave-my-shirts-here dept.
diverge_s writes "BrainConnection has an interesting article about a man who lives life straight out of the movie Memento. FTA: "When twenty-seven year old Henry M. entered the hospital in 1953 for radical brain surgery that was supposed to cure his epilepsy, he was hopeful that the procedure would change his life for the better. Instead, it trapped him in a mental time warp where TV is always a new invention and Truman is forever president. The removal of large sections of his temporal lobes left Henry unable to form any new personal memories, but his tragic loss revolutionized the field of psychology and made "H.M." the most-studied individual in the history of brain research.""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Brain Surgery Patient Trapped in a Mental Time Warp

Comments Filter:
  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:04AM (#14565173) Homepage Journal
    It means he never has to put up with re-runs on television and got to escape the entire disco era unscathed.
  • by drDugan (219551) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:06AM (#14565183) Homepage
    "BrainConnection has an interesting article about a man who lives life straight out of the movie Memento. FTA: "When twenty-seven year old Henry M. entered the ..."

  • Clive Wearing... (Score:5, Informative)

    by RustNeverSleeps (846857) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:10AM (#14565195)
    This case reminded me of another case I learned about in a psychology class several years ago. There is a British man named Clive Wearing [wikipedia.org] who has a similar condition caused by disease. A video of Wearing showed him greeting his wife as if for the first time in months or years, even if she had only just stepped out of the room for a minute, writing in his journal every couple minutes etc. They did say that he had some vague recollection of major events like the fall of the Berlin wall and the Soviet Union, but not much beyond that. He was also shown playing the piano very fluently, although he went into a seizure as soon as he stopped playing, supposedly because of the "shock" from the music stopping.
    • My wife took cognitive psych last semester and they mentioned someone who had essentially lost their short term memory so he didn't learn anything new. Well not quite that because they did an experiment where he shook the hand of the doctor but the doctor had put a thumbtack in his hand. The next day he wouldn't shake the doctors hand. The reason he gave was that he had heard from someone that there was somebody going around doing what had occured the day before. So it seems that things that stay in their h
    • Imagine if everytime you loaded up a browser and went to Slashdot you saw the same story. You turn on the TV and it's still the same old shows... the same idiots in public office making the same mistakes... you still had to work too long for too little free time. You fire up your console but it's the same old games...the same music...the same movies... That must be terrible.

  • A bit more about him (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:11AM (#14565197)
    Okay, I started typing this based only on the title of the /. article when it was still in the mysterious future. It looks like I'm talking about the same guy that the article is. Anyway, this guy is truly fascinating. It's good to hear that he's still alive and kicking! Here's what I typed before reading the article: I was doing video conversions (VHS->VCD) for a Pyschology professor a while back and he had this most amazing video of a man through some sort of illness had lost the ability to make new memories (a la, Memento, although this was before the release of that movie). He was happy as a clam, although kind of dazed and confused. What was interesting though, was that as he got older (the video followed him over something like twenty years), he started to adapt. I say adapt, because he wasn't making new memories, but was learning patterns. Let me explain: the nurses always came into his room hoping that he would recognize them, but of course he wouldn't, because he met them after the brain injury, but he started to pick up on that anticipation and started to fake knowing them, as best he could.
    • by cgenman (325138) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:25AM (#14565257) Homepage
      My grandmother is going through this exact same process, and it is interesting to watch. She has gone from thinking that she just got to her new home, to "I think I've been here a few weeks." (years, actually) She's stopped recognizing a lot of people, but she's learned to pretend to know everyone. She learned to walk over to the calendar to see if people were there yesterday, even though she doesn't recognize the calendar or know why she's going to that part of the room.

      She even learned how to sneak out and buy beer, and did so repeatedly. We were all impressed by that one. Of course, she pled innocent, and as far as she knows she was.

      • She even learned how to sneak out and buy beer, and did so repeatedly.

        I think that this says something about human nature, but I'm not quite sure what ;).

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:10AM (#14565572)
      What is happening, at least as was explained to us psych majors, is that he can learn skills, but not facts. Those parts of the brain are apparantly seperate, which is one of the major discoveries his case has lead to. So you cannot teach him facts about a bicycle that he doesn't know, but he could learn to ride a bycicle, if he doesn't know how.
      • "you cannot teach him facts about a bicycle that he doesn't know, but he could learn to ride a bycicle, if he doesn't know how"

        So you could teach him to ride a bike but he'd be unable to to remember that he can ride a bike? Now that would be a weird experience.

      • by brunes69 (86786)
        So basically the difference is between motor memory and other memory, correct?

        One would wonder then, if someone who was deaf had the same thing happen, how their memory would be affected? Because teaching them facts would involve using ASL, which you think would be equated with the motor memory.

    • by Mad_Rain (674268) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:34AM (#14566101) Journal
      I would recommend to anybody who is interested Oliver Sacks [wikipedia.org], a neurologist who wrote a great book called The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat [wikipedia.org] for other intriguing and amusing tales from the fringes of psychology and medicine. As I recall (eek!) it did a fair job of explaining our understanding of the brain (even as the book is 20 years old).
    • by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @09:10AM (#14566382) Homepage
      In 1996 my boyfriend Andy suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage from an aneurysm, and after surgery to repair it, had an ischemic stroke which hit his hypothalamus. End result: almost no short-term memory, like the subject of this article.

      In the weeks afterward, Andy had some fairly classic stroke symptoms, including paralysis on his right side. He couldn't talk, even to say his own name. But he could sing songs with people, because that skill is located on the right side of the brain, rather than on the left side with our language centers. And when his nasogastric feeding tube was pulled out, he spat out a very intelligible "fuck". Evidently swearing becomes a reflex.

      While he was still recovering the ability to stand and to walk, he had to be watched all the time, because he'd keep trying to get up out of his wheelchair... unsuccessfully. But the fact that he kept trying to use his right arm and leg - not remembering that they didn't work - probably helped their recovery.

      Every time I talked to Andy, I'd tell him about my new apartment; he'd usually - but not always - react with surprise. During one phone conversation (which wasn't going very well because he was distracted by the TV in front of him), I asked if I could talk to his father (with whom he was staying). Andy put down the cordless phone, saw that Dad was busy, looked up at the TV... and forgot I was there. I had to yell from the sofa cushion to get his attention, so he'd pick up the phone again. Conversations were always difficult because "what did you do today?" would elicit either shrugs or he'd just make something up, his mind grasping at any random memory that might serve as an answer. I frequently fell back on retelling him the same stories about my life lately, just to fill time and stay connected to him, and hoping that maybe they'd sink in.

      He did gradually form some new memories. His therapists accomplished some of this by chronic repetition. Living in an environment with lots of calendars and repeated quizzes about the month and year, he got fairly good at remembering that. By asking him over and over during our drive home from a restaurant what the name of it was (no, he didn't find it annoying; each time I asked he barely remembered that previous time), he was able to remember it an hour later. Once, in response to me commenting about my shitty finances, he commented about "the new apartment". After several months of telling him about the fact that I'd gone back to college for another degree, he seemed surprised when I mentioned it again, but on a hunch I asked him what the name of it was, and he remembered. But for the most part, he learned to compensate for short-term memory with habits and with a lot of clever guessing.

      I wish I could tell you about Andy's condition in the long-term, but his family won't let me see or talk to him anymore. (They say he'd get overstimulated and unmanageable after I visited or called on the phone... and I never got along that well with them to begin with.) I fought this at first, but since they're better able to care for him (they have money and a support network; I'm just me and underemployed), and since he's painlessly unaware that I'm not in his life anymore (for all he knows, he might have just seen me yesterday), I finally had to let go. More of the personal sob-story details can be found here [toddverbeek.com].

  • by Carpe PM (754778) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:16AM (#14565221)
    ...is better known as Cowboy Neal.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:19AM (#14565231)
    (Caption on the screen: 'IT'S THE MIND -- A WEEKLY MAGAZINE OF THINGS PSYCHIATRIC' Cut to montage of photographs again with captions and music. Cut to a man sitting at usual desk. He is Mr Boniface.)

    Boniface: Good evening. Tonight on 'It's the Mind', we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu. That strange feeling we sometimes get that we've lived through something before, that what is happening now has already happened. Tonight on 'It's the Mind' we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu, that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've ... (looks puzzled fir a moment) Anyway, tonight on 'It's the Mind' we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu, that strange...

    (Cut to opening title sequence with montage of psychiatric photos and the two captions and music over. Cut back to Mr Boniface at desk, shaken. Caption on screen: 'IT'S THE MIND')

    Boniface: Good evening. Tonight on 'It's the Mind' we examine the phenomenon of déjà vu, that strange feeling we someti... mes get ... that ... we've lived through something...

    (Cut to opening titles again. Back then to Boniface, now very shaken. Caption on screen: 'IT'S THE MIND')
  • Not news... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xitshsif (909565) <simonp@alumni.purdue.edu> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:21AM (#14565238)
    "entered the hospital in 1953 for radical brain surgery"

    If the most recent development was in 1953, is it still news?
  • Mirror, mirror (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baby Duck (176251) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:44AM (#14565327) Homepage
    The funniest and cruelest thing you can do to him is show him his own reflection. How would you feel if you woke up one morning and had tons of wrinkles on your face where none were before.
    • You, Sir, are a bastard for thinking that up before I did.

      I salute you
    • Re:Mirror, mirror (Score:2, Interesting)

      by imoou (949576)
      He would have forgotten how he felt after coming to realization that the person in the mirror is him.
    • I don't know, telling him his mother is dead seem crueler.
    • Re:Mirror, mirror (Score:4, Informative)

      by greginnj (891863) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:19AM (#14565589) Homepage Journal
      One of his doctors actually did this -- perhaps thinking it would help 'jar' his memory or something, not really thinking through the effect that suddenly seeing yourself old would have. HM's reaction was predictable -- 'Hey, Doc! What the hell is this??'

      Fortunately, the doctor realized his error quickly, took away the mirror, and said, 'It's complicated, but I can explain it to you. But first, come on over to the window'. After looking out the window for a bit, HM forgot why he was there, or even that he was upset.
    • Re:Mirror, mirror (Score:5, Informative)

      by HaydnH (877214) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:41AM (#14565882)
      "The funniest and cruelest thing you can do to him is show him his own reflection. How would you feel if you woke up one morning and had tons of wrinkles on your face where none were before."

      Errr, did you read the article? He doesn't appear too bothered by the mirror thing:

      "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."


      Actually he seems quite upbeat about the whole thing, the highlight of the article for me (as it looks like you probably missed it) has to be the following:

      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.

      Haydn.
    • pfft. Happened to me this morning.

      Just how the hell did I become 35?
  • WWASD?

    What would Adam Sandler do?
  • by FuturePastNow (836765) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:46AM (#14565335)
    I have epilepsy, specifically partial complex seizures of the temporal lobe. No neurosurgeon ever suggested surgery as a solution, but based on cases like this, I think I would have declined the offer had it been made. I can't imagine actually having part of my brain removed, and because everyone is different, results like this man's can never be 100% avoided.

    The brain has a fantastic ability to route around damage, but 53 years after this man's surgery, we still don't know enough about the way it works to reliably fix problems that the brain itself cannot handle.

    (Then again, my seizure episodes aren't nearly as frequent as described in the article.)
    • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:48AM (#14565521) Homepage Journal
      Around that time, theory was a lot more advanced than practice. For example, there was a theory around that time that stated that seizures and some forms of mental illness were caused by malformed connections between brain cells - that all you needed to do was sever the connections and let them regrow. As theories went, that wasn't too bad.


      Apparently what happened in practice is that doctors would use coat hangers or any other bits of wire they could find, and slash at the brain until the symptoms stopped.


      Arguably, though, severe brain damage (through cutting chunks out or prodding them wildly with steel rods) was probably a better fate than those in Victorian asylums, which combined all the home comforts of a Soviet-era Siberian prison camp with the theraputic properties of a medieval torture chamber. At least the victims of the medical experiments were often incapable of suffering much. (Some, just not as much.)


      Modern therapies for brain disorders are often highly dangerous, extremely toxic to the rest of the body, notorious for side-effects, often addictive, and many are poorly studied with completely unknown long-term consequences. That is many thousands of times better again than those who underwent the surgery.


      With the newer discoveries being produced through fMRI and other next-generation scanning equiptment, I fully expect the next thirty to fourty years to produce as many radical changes to neurological treatments as the past thirty to fourty have. It'll be interesting to see how things change.

      • by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:32AM (#14565620)

        Around that time, theory was a lot more advanced than practice.


        Boy is that an understatement. There was also little in the area of medical ethics. A lot of those doctors should have gone to jail for what they did. This is the same era where insulin shock and electro-shock were standard practices for several mental illnesses. What a sick and sad time.
        • Errmmm... electroshock therapy still is used for depression. (Although you tend to be anaesthetised first.)
        • I don't think they should have gone to jail. The vast majority were using the latest knowledge in an honest effort to help people. The alternatives, neglecting or abandoning the ill, are far more sick. Considering that's what preceded your "sick and sad time", I'd say that we're progressing... and that in 50 years, our current treatments will look terrible.

          --
          Evan

      • Modern therapies for brain disorders are often highly dangerous, extremely toxic to the rest of the body, notorious for side-effects, often addictive, and many are poorly studied with completely unknown long-term consequences

        And what do you base this comment on? Modern therapies are rarely dangerous (felbamate being the only modern therapy I would have said was dangerous and that is restricted), have few side effects especially compared to their action, aren't addictive, and are very intensively studied


    • No neurosurgeon ever suggested surgery as a solution, but based on cases like this, I think I would have declined the offer had it been made. I can't imagine actually having part of my brain removed, and because everyone is different, results like this man's can never be 100% avoided.


      The 1950s weren't exactly a proud time for neurology. The lobotomy only lost favor as a "treatment" in the 50s because of the advent of thorazine. The guy that invented the lobotomy actually won the nobel prize for medicine i
    • by bloodredsun (826017) <martin.bloodredsun@com> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:44AM (#14565887) Journal
      Actually as someone who has just finished a PhD in Neurophysiology I feel I may be a little better placed to comment than your average /. reader

      Complex partial seizures originating in the temporal lobe have one of the best success rates in epilepsy surgery, but surgery is only offered to patients whos epilepsy is medically refractive (cannot be controlled by drugs) and affects their life in such as way that they would strongly benefit from surgery. Temporal lobe epilepsy is most often caused by mesial temporal or hippocampal sclerosis, this means that that part of the brain has become scarred and shrunk and this damage is causing the seizures. So this part of the brain supports a minimal amount of function. As your seizures are probably well controlled by drugs, you would never have been offered a surgical option.

      we still don't know enough about the way it works to reliably fix problems that the brain itself cannot handle.
      That's correct to a certain extent, but we do know a lot more and one of them is how to avoid causing the sort of condition that HM suffers.

  • first dates (Score:4, Funny)

    by vlad30 (44644) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:35AM (#14565478)
    he could meet this girl http://imdb.com/title/tt0343660/ [imdb.com]
  • by Mitaphane (96828) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:15AM (#14565581) Homepage
    I thought this story covered the term but apparently it doesn't. Anyway, the medical term for Henry's condition is called anterograde amnesia [wikipedia.org]. And if it hasn't already been mentioned here, it's also the same ailment that the protagonist Leonard has in the movie Memento [imdb.com]. And if you liked that movie I reccommend reading the short story [impulsenine.com] it was based on. It's an excellent piece of prose.
  • by shotgunefx (239460) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:19AM (#14565590) Journal
    When my mother had a stroke when she was dying of cancer, a very odd thing happened.

    I rushed to the hospital, she seemed ok, but weak. We talked for hours, everything seemed fine. I still don't know what prompted me to ask the question as our converstation was pretty much normal. I asked her "Do you know you who I am?"

    She said "No, should I?". Pretty much the worst moment of my life. As it turned out, she though it was 1968 and she was in there to give birth to what would be my brother Kevin.

    Thankfully, over the next few weeks, most of it came back, but it all came back in chronological order.

    She was back to the 1980's within a few hours, but the next 12 years came back much slower. She thought I was still with my first girlfriend circa 1990, that we had our old pets. The last few years were the only thing that remained somewhat little fuzzy.

    I always thought that was very telling about the mind. Not sure exactly what it says, but it definitely says something. Maybe memory is stored tree-like. The other thing that was odd, was the closer to the present it got, the slower it came back.
    • The other thing that was odd, was the closer to the present it got, the slower it came back.

      While I'm not a cognitive scientist, I am thinking that could be because earlier memories have been remembered thousands of times, and reinforced all the more during each remembrance. Newer memories haven't had that reinforcement yet, and the neural connections will be weaker. Perhaps?

      • Yes and no. This is based off my own vague memory of what was recent theory about seven years ago in our cog. sci. class, so take it with a large grain of salt: there's a background 'noise' to the brain that slowly reduces the number of synaptic connections per neuron over time, which in theory would cause you to forget things. You have to think about a topic every once in a while - or think about something stored in a neural connection in close proximity at the actual physical level (thus activating the
    • Almost sounds liked a journaled filesystem with the most recent records corrupt, doesn't it?

      --Ryvar
    • The other thing that was odd, was the closer to the present it got, the slower it came back.

      That's easily explained through general relitivity. As she travelled through time her "speed" in time increased, thus leading to a temporal dialation effect, slowing her down.
  • by Hosiah (849792) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @04:02AM (#14565688)
    While we're all taking about memory defects...

    I've have one that's very specific, but only been a minor nuisance. I blow people's names. Especially in a work environment, where I'm constantly meeting new people. A new person will have to remind me of their name anywhere from six to twelve times before it sinks in. Some people I know for awhile, then start calling them by the wrong name for a while. Then I stop that and get back to calling them by their right name again. Most people are understanding (I have to explain myself), but some get quite offended.

    Mind you, it's the only memory defect I have. I can remember a face after meeting a person once and not seeing them for years. In conversation with a co-worker on a day-to-day basis, I can tell them what we talked about yesterday, what they were wearing last week, everything they've told me about themselves down to the most minute detail. Just not their name! But in most cases, I finally get them straight after a few months.

    I was just wondering, with all the psych buffs in here...(PS it works this way online, too. I'm more likely to remember posters by their sig, or even just by their writing style, or on other forums by their icons...I'll even place people by their ID-number before their names!)

    • I am the same way, and by way of ref, I was "diagnosed" ADD/ADHD in the late 80's/early 90's (you seriously expect ME to remember when, yeah right, read the first part of the sentence again). I have since spent a lot of time talking to some very knowledgeable (think genius and add some on top) Psychs (both varieties) and have come to the conclusion (which they sometimes acknowledge is a reasonable belief, since so little seems to be known about this "disease" (phhht)) that ADD/ADHD is not a impairment in t
    • Luckily I live in Australia.
      I can get away with calling everyone "mate".
    • Perhaps it is the stress of having to recall a name that makes you forget it. Happens to me - if I have to introduce people I suddenly get a complete block on their names even if I've known them for years. I don't think it is any kind of memory defect as such.
       
    • Yeah, what you have is "Couldn'tgivashitaboutyou"itis :-) Seriously though, I have/had the same issue and the real reason we can't remember peoples names is because we never really cared enough about that person to bother remembering. I am not having a go at you, but it sounds a lot like what many people have. The faces are easy because we are so deeply wired to remember them. But the name thing requires conscious effort and you probably aren't bothering.

      It takes a fairly major mind shift when you first mee
      • I also suffer from this, I never bother listening to people names when they're introduced since I think if I ever need to know there name I'll be able to find out when I need it. Right now I've been working in the same office for around 8 months and still don't know the names of dozens of people I've been introduced to simply because I've never had any cause to talk to them.
    • by aug24 (38229) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @06:15AM (#14565952) Homepage
      Me too. It's called Anomia [wiktionary.org]

      Curable/copable for most people using mnemonics. I can do a few people at a time now, by imagining them in a hug with someone else with the same name. I hold the pictures better than the words. Still can't cope in a new contract when I have ten people to remember: I won't be able to hold any of them.

      Only works for first names, and only names I've come across before, so not a perfect solution!

      Justin.

      • Anomia is the inability to name things in general, not just people. People with anomia have a hard time naming objects you show them, even though they know how to use them. Sometimes it's very pervasive, sometimes it's limited to a few things. I don't know that it's ever limited to people, although there's a separate deficit caused by inability to recognize faces visually. Pure anomics don't always have damage to the medial temporal lobes, and if you want to characterize it as a form of amnesia (which i
      • Excuse me for veering off a little, but there's a question I keep asking people (and myself).

        Is "holding pictures" meant to be metaphorical in any way? Until recently I thought "I can see it in my mind" was just a flowery way of saying "I am familiar with it". I'm quite blind inside in most mundane states of consciousness - couldn't even visualize a circle, much less whatever happy places people purport to see in meditations. Yet I could probably describe or draw familiar faces or objects as well as or b
        • I certainly do. When I am on the train to work, planning DIY in the evening, say, then I will work around the room in my head, planning what order I will do things in, and I can see the whole room from any angle. I'm doing it now, just to check!

          Shit, I just thought: how do you do, shall we say, relief?

          Don't answer that, OK ;-)

          Justin.

      • Thanks for the tip, J-- Jake? James?
    • No psych buff here but I remember reading that the association for names is stored in a different place, a more recent area that lives outside the hippocampus (primitive or early brain), probably because language skills came later on the evolution cycle. You can remember the aftershave/perfume they wear, mental image of their features and the way they walk, habits etc. because they are more closely linked to the hippocampus. Think early man and what he needed to know to survive, that's at the core and read

    • I have the same problem - i tend to forget somebody's name in about 5 seconds after the first time i've heard it and i need a couple of interactions before i can memorize the name (less for pretty girls ;))

      Interestingly enough my memory for just about everything else is very good.

      I've mostly solved the problem by the simple expedient of calling everybody "You there" :)))
    • I think that is entirely normal for a human, actually. The only people I know who remember names on 'first contact' are marketing/sales types (and I think their trick is to just use mnemonics or other memory jogging tricks).
  • by Hack Jandy (781503) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:22AM (#14565845) Homepage
    This is older than internet and I combined. Did someone just take Psychology 100 recently?

    HJ
  • More importantly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Leffe (686621) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:36AM (#14565868)
    Did the operation cure the epilepsy?
    • Re:More importantly (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bloodredsun (826017)
      I believe it did. He was thought to have bilateral temporal lobe eiplepsy, the removal of which cured or at least reduced his seizures markedly but left him with severve anterograde amnesia.
  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:47AM (#14565895) Homepage Journal
    ... after a head injury, I was unable to form new memories. That mechanism was not working. I was totally conscious and talking to people, and yet from my perspective I didn't even exist. It is NOT like the movie Memento, because its simply impossible to have any self-awareness of your condition.

    For the weeks that I was like this, I was essentially dead. I was lucky enough that for me it was temporary, though I still have some problems, but even if I weren't already an atheist it would have been total confirmation that there is no afterlife, because with that small part of my brain not working I was literally no longer a person, I didn't exist as a mind - I was just some pile of animated meat.

    The process of regaining the memory "stickiness" was strange - that time feels like my birth.

  • But this research is OK because it is completely distinct from "bad" human experiments right? I mean, the end justifies the means here right? We're getting valuable data and all it cost was the long term memory of one solitary man.

    Hooray for progress!
    • I'm not sure they did it on purpose :)
    • So you think that intention doesn't matter? The idea was to cure this persons dibilatating epilepsy, not investigate the function of the anterior hippocampus. It was an experimental procedure as his epilepsy was life-threateningly bad. Check SUDEP in google.
      • The idea was to cure this persons dibilatating epilepsy, not investigate the function of the anterior hippocampus.

        The original operation involved cutting out large sections of this persions temporal lobes. I'm reasonably sure that this procedure would fall under the "experimental" heading as I doubt it would become an accepted practice once the results had been observed.
        • The original operation was a bilateral anterior temporal lobectomy. The patients subsequent anterograde amnesia was the result of both hippocampi being removed. Further tests, using anaesthetic not surgery, revealed that amnesia did not occur as long as one hippocampus could support memory function. Unilateral anterior temporal lobectomies were the result and are now the commonest surgical treatment for epilepsy and are very much accepted practice.

  • by Cee (22717)
    Speaking as a psychology geek, this is textbook. You hear about this case the first semester in class. But it's nice to see this on /. aswell, available to the general geek public.
  • by Placebo Messiah (895157) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:41AM (#14566118)
    I just wanna say, you are a really smart buncha nerdy people. How you ended up on my TV isn't even relevant right now. I'm truly inspired by your fresh approach to scientific criticism and humour. kudos to you all and let the show go on!
  • by Placebo Messiah (895157) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:44AM (#14566127)
    I just wanna say, you are a really smart buncha nerdy people. How you ended up on my TV isn't even relevant right now. I'm truly inspired by your fresh approach to scientific criticism and humour. praise to you all and let the show go on!
  • Looking back on it, of *course* he's stuck in a time-warp. We could infer from H.M.'s experience that the temporal lobes are responsible for our progression forward through time.

    It seems obvious in hindsight that temporal lobes would be responsible for temporal mechanics.
  • There is a classic science fiction story by John Pierce (Invariant, 1944, Astounding) wherein a man figures out how to make himself immortal.. but loses the capability to form new memories. Hasn't been reprinted in a while, but a very good story. You can find it in the first Astounding Anthology, amongst other collections.
  • sort of common (Score:4, Informative)

    by drfireman (101623) <dan@kim[ ]g.com ['ber' in gap]> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @09:37AM (#14566550) Homepage
    Memory deficits are a risk of epilepsy surgery. As yet there's no truly reliable way to predict post-surgical memory problems, but since surgery is generally a last resort, it's a risk the patients have to take. This kind of memory problem is also typical of Wernicke-Korsakoff's Syndrome, dramatized in the second chapter of Oliver Sacks's "The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat," which is often a consequence of long drinking binges (and an accompanying vitamin deficiency, I think). You don't always see the truly dense amnesia, but when you do it's striking.
  • I wonder (Score:3, Funny)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @04:14PM (#14571835)
    Is he still looking for John G.?

It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same.

Working...