RIP: Henry G. Molaison (1926-2008)

Dec 04 2008 Published by under Cognition, Obituary, Psychology

The man who constituted one of the best explored case studies in cognitive psychology, perhaps the best explored case study ever, has passed away. As reported in the Montreal Gazette:

The 82-year-old man scientists have known only as HM died of heart failure Tuesday after decades in a Connecticut chronic care home, unaware of what he gave to science.

In short, H.M. suffered intractable epilepsy for which he underwent a removal of large portions of his temporal lobes. Although successful in curbing his seizures, the procedure resulted in a anterograde memory loss resulting in an individual stuck in time. The rather selective nature of his impairment led to a huge number of investigations and information on the neuronal basis of various processes that we think of under the general term"memory".
RIP, H.M., voluntarily or not you are a lion of science.
[additional here; h/t: PP]

11 responses so far

  • neurogradstudent says:

    I am not sure why, but this makes me profoundly sad. I guess I wish he knew how much he contributed....I hope the community does something nice to remember him.

  • juniorprof says:

    Makes me profoundly sad too. HM's case was presented in a Psych class when I was 20 and still a physics major. Within days I was enrolled in Neuroscience classes for the following semester and changed my major soon afterwards.

  • neurolover says:

    Reports I've heard suggest that he did have an inkling of how he was important to other people. I tend to attribute that knowledge to the women he worked with, including Brenda Milner, and Susan Corkin. Thanks for linking.

  • leigh says:

    oh.... man. the irony that this guy couldn't do hippocampal learning, and yet taught us so much.
    rest easy, HM. you were the giant, we see further from standing upon your shoulders...

  • Oh, that's too bad. I heard from one friend that he had retained a sense of humor. He had just enough awareness that things were wrong that the following exchange occurred (warning, may be apocryphal):
    Scientist (walking with him down a hallway for more testing, making conversation: "So, Henry, do you know where we are now?" (knowing full well that he can't know).
    HM: "MIT!"
    Scientist: "How did you know that????!???"
    HM (pointing to a student's school t-shirt): "Gotcha."
    As leigh says, we learned so much.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    I'm with juniorprof. I'd bet that he inspired more students to go into neuroscience than any other single individual. His memory will live on with each of us.

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    HM was clearly one of the sirens of physiological psychology that lured me into behavioral neuroscience. I remember at Berkeley hearing lectures from Arnold Leiman and Mark Rosenzweig on the subject.
    Who gets to section and stain his brain? Me me, I'll do it
    !!!
    Dr F.

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    Hey Juniorprof,
    Do you realize the awesome irony in your last post? I dont think HM would say the same of you hahahaha!
    Dr F.

  • TreeFish says:

    HM, we hardly knew ye. I went to undergrad at an institution with one of the major neuropsychologists that worked with him. He, and the team of scientists that studied him, certainly changed the face of neuroscience. Thanks, HM. Though Phineas Gage's case and Korsakoff's cases contributed greatly to the neurology of memory loss, it really wasn't until the HM peeps started publishing that the nail was driven into Pavlov's and Lashley's mass action coffin.
    Good on you, HM. RIP.

  • DrBadger says:

    Yeah, he's been a big part of my scientific career (since I first heard about him in high school). Too bad he didn't know that he's been part of so many people eduction. I just heard Brenda Milner give a talk about him at SfN... glad I decided to make time for it. RIP.

  • Kate says:

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    Kate
    http://educationonline-101.com

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