Daily Archives: August 5, 2013

** Permanent Present Tense by Suzanne Corkin

The author of Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient, H.M. is the neurologist who studied the hapless Henry Molaison, whose ability to acquire long-term memories pretty much ceased to work following an experimental brain surgery aimed to relieve epileptic seizures, and I felt a definite ick factor throughout the narrative as the poor man was studied and scanned and measured over and over again, culminating in his autopsy, and I quote, “Seeing Henry’s precious brain in the safety of the metal bowl was one of the most memorable and satisfying moemnts of my life.” Think about that statement (which follow many others on how H.M>, as he was known before his death, enriched the author’s store of publications).

That being said, the availability of a patient who could not remember people he had met countless times, but could learn the layout of a new house did much to advance our knowledge of the ways memories form, in particular that our bodies learn to navigate a house, or to use a walker, in a completely different way from remembering facts. The book recounts dozens of clever experiments that explored how humans form memories and how they may acquire distorted memories of a given event. Great science, not so comfortable exploitation of a unique subject.

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