H.M’s Brains and History of memory

Posted: October 17th, 2013






H.M’s Brains and History of memory

According to the case study H.M.’s Brain and the History of Memory, H.M was a patient suffering from a brutal form of epilepsy that caused him constant seizures and bouts of loss of normalcy occasionally. This desperate condition forced him to undergo an experimental operation that stopped the seizures but left him with a new condition commonly known as Amnesia. This new condition did not allow him to acquire new memories. He could remember events that happened before the operation but could not remember day-to-day events after the operation. The condition was critical to a point where he could not even remember a meal he had taken the same day. The scientists since then used him until the time of his death to conduct research and experiments in order to better understand the composition and functions of memory and the human brain altogether.

Study from scientists showed that H.M’s memory had been severely damaged by the operation. He could not retain memories but amazingly, he was able to learn new things. This was observed through an interrogation when he was able to recognize some famous people who had become public figures after his operation. He was also able to identify the doctor’s last name without being told. This brought in new findings to the research. Long before, scientists had believed that single memory piled up all information and that it all exists in one spot in the brain, which is known as single address. Afterwards this was disregarded.

From H.M’s case doctors came to realize that the memory is far much complex. They now understood that the brain has many different memory systems in which memory is stored. Declarative memory is used when attempting to remember something and non-declarative memory is used when doing a normal routine without thinking such as when driving a motor vehicle. In the human brain, the hippocampus, celebral cortex and para-hippocampal regions make up the declarative or cognitive memory. The non-declarative memory or behavioral memory is sustained by the amygdale, cerebellum and striatum.

Implicit memories are non-conscious as they involve day-to-day activities or emotions felt and are associated with non-declarative memory. Explicit memories are conscious and may be associated with non-declarative as they refer to the use of memory to recall or remember an event that happened. HM’s case indicated the separation of the explicit and implicit memories trough removal of medial temporal lobe, amygdala and hippocampus, which resulted to the ability to remember old memories and inability to make new long-term memories.

Having this type of memory loss would be a very devastating phenomenon for anyone to go through. Not only does it disrupt one’s day-to-day activities but it also destroys relationship among individuals. This would require one to resign from normal working duties since one would be rendered incapable of accomplishing various tasks. Failure to do so may have one dismissed or fired leading to anguish and humiliation. Secondly, one would be a hazard to others and even to their own lives, since an affected individual may decide to prepare a meal and the event of cooking, forget about it and end up burning the house. Thirdly, one may be abandoned or rejected by friends, family and the society. Not many people would want to associate with someone who cannot stay abreast of everyday events.

Personally, it would make me dependant of others meaning I may have to rely on other people to look after them and watch over them throughout. This would lower my self worth and demean my being. This would also mean that I could not extend or pursue studies like other people because it would be rather difficult to retain acquired knowledge. It would also ruins my social life in that it may became difficult keeping and maintaining a relationship and even family due to communication barriers that may arise when there is constant repetition. I may easily devalue life and lose track to personal goals and ambitions

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