The brain…the brain is the most intriguing organ in the human body. This magnificent organ is responsible for the most complex operations that help to make us “human” or “alive.” So with that being said, I would like to give a very overdue props to Henry Molaison. Henry was born on February 26, 1926 and died on December 2nd, 2008. Now you will not read about Henry in famous magazines or hear talk show hosts speak of him, but we are all forever in his debt. The very reason that made him famous within the science community is also the very same reason that destroyed his life.
Henry suffered from epilepsy. Epilepsy, for those who do not know, causes the brain to lose control of the body, making the person have uncontrollable seizures at any time without warning. A neurosurgeon named William Scoville deduced an idea that at the time was very radical and had not been performed before. He suggested that he remove the anterior two thirds of the hippocampi, parahippocampal cortices, entorhinal cortices, piriform cortices, and amygdalae. Now let me remind you that, at this time, all that was known was that overproduction of the hippocampi causes these epileptic seizures, so theoretically, if you remove it then they should stop. But what happened was ground breaking…not only did the seizures stop, but his ability to create long-term memories ceased to exist. Henry, through his disability, taught us that the hippocampi is responsible for making the long term memories that we store for future reference. So in Henry’s case, he could never create a memory past the date of his surgery. He was the real life Dory from Finding Nemo.
From studying Henry years after his surgery, we learned many things about the hippocampi and its real purpose. It was unfortunate that Henry’s past and memories were robbed of him, but scientists learned so much from his compliance to the surgery. So for the inadvertent destruction of your life which led to unprecedented breakthroughs in science, I thank you Henry and give big props to your life for all the future lives you have saved and scientific breakthroughs you created.