BC Home Education Connection Library Brain Teasers Market Place  
Sat, 02/09/2008
BrainConnection.com is
a Web resource from Scientific Learning.
to the bi-weekly "Brain Buzz," the latest news about the brain. Enter your email address:
Education Connection
NSF News
Your Voices
Conference Presenters

Brain Basics
Image Gallery
Learning Resources
Brain Facts


Web Sites

About BC
Awards Page
Our Staff
Scientific Learning
Contact Us

The Day His World Stood Still - Page 4

Henry Right Now

Study of Henry's case has led to some very seminal findings about memory. Specifically, it seems that the hippocampus is required for the formation of conscious, long-term memories, but not for unconscious, long-term skill memories or short-term recall. Perhaps even more importantly, Henry has vividly illustrated that there is a biological basis for memory and that it is possible to use biological techniques to study a subject as elusive as memory.

As for Henry's current status, he lives in a nursing home in Hartford and still travels occasionally to MIT for memory testing. He enjoys doing crossword puzzles and watching detective shows on television. His life is peaceful, if not completely happy. He worries often that he has done something wrong, and it is not possible for him to make any real friends since he cannot remember a person from ten minutes to the next. At times, he seems to have a sense of humor about his condition, as in the following anecdote taken from his biography, Memory's Ghost: The Strange Tale of Mr. M. and the Nature of Memory, by Philip Hilts:

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.

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. Though he does not recall his operation, he knows that there is something wrong with his memory and has adopted a philosophical stance on his problems: "It does get me upset, but I always say to myself, what is to be is to be. That's the way I always figure it now."

Often, Henry will express the hope that others can learn from his unfortunate situation, as he told Philip Hilts in an interview several years ago:

"Well, what I keep thinking is that possibly I had an operation. And somehow the memory is gone...And I'm trying to figure it out...I think of it all the time. I don't remember this, and why I don't remember that."

"Is that worrisome?" Hilts wanted to know.

"Well, it isn't worrisome in a way, to me, because I know that if they ever performed an operation on me, they'd learn from it. It would help others."

Sadly, the very nature of his memory loss prevents Henry from ever knowing the incredible contribution he has made to the field of psychology, but his tale stands as an important prologue to the ongoing story of memory research. Long after Henry passes on, "H.M." will be studied as the man whose unwitting sacrifice first vividly illustrated the important link between memory and brain.



Page 1: Summary
Page 2: The Fateful Surgery
Page 3: What Henry Can Remember, And What He Cannot
Page 4: Henry Right Now

Joanna Schaffhausen earned a B.S. in psychology from Tufts University in 1996. She is currently a graduate student at Yale University, interested in the cellular mechanisms of learning and memory.

feedback print

On the Brain

The Biological Basis of AggressionThe Biological Basis of Aggression
Researchers look from animal minds to criminal minds to learn how the brain controls aggression and what happens when that control slips away.
Find out more...

Navigating Space Navigating Space: How Your Brain Knows Where You Are
How do we rapidly build spatial maps of unfamiliar rooms or cities? A pair of tiny seahorse-shaped curls in the brain might be the key to unlocking the mystery of how humans understand spaces.
Find out more...

Roger Sperry Roger Sperry: The Brains Inside The Brain
The characteristics of the "left brain" versus the "right brain" have received a great deal of media attention. Roger Sperry's pioneering work on split brains provided the first clues about what each half of the brain does.
Find out more...

Origins of Neuroscience Origins of Neuroscience: A History of Explorations into Brain Function
by Stanley Finger

Shadows of the Mind Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness
by Roger Penrose

Memory's Ghost: The Strange Tale of Mr. M. and the Nature of Memory
by Philip J. Hilts

Searching for Memory Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past
by Daniel L. Schacter



BrainConnection.com is a Web resource from Scientific Learning

Home | About BC | MarketPlace | Contact Us | Staff | Glossary | Privacy | Terms of Use

We suggest that you view this site with Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer 5 or 6,
we do not support IE7 at this time. For Macintosh users, we support Mozilla Firefox and Safari.
Scientific Learning 300 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza Suite 600 Oakland, CA 94612-2040
© 1999-2008 Scientific Learning All Rights Reserved