H.M. is dead, at 82, but will be long remembered.

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by Billy T, Dec 8, 2008.

  1. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    See the NYT's obituary at:

    It tells of his improving skill at drawing a line between two star shapes, a smaller one inside the other, despite never knowing he had done this many prior times and needing to have the task explained anew each time. - This clearly demonstrated some learning or at least motor skills.

    I had "second hand" contact with HM in that another researcher studying him was associate of mine for the year I spent in the cognitive science department of JHU.

    HM also learned to do the "Tower of Hanoi" task* with more proficiency, but of course had no memory of having ever done it before. This task clearly uses motor skills, as does the drawing between concentric stars does, but at least to me when I do it, it requires considerable conscious planning of future moves. Thus, I think, HM could learn to "reason better" as well as just learn to be more proficient in motor skills (like riding a bike, hitting a golf ball, or keeping the pencil point while drawing his closed loop line between two stars etc.)

    Obviously all "learning" is some form of memory. Thus while HM lived post-OP without the ability to form any new declarative memories, he, IMHO, did have something more than just motor memory preserved.

    Despite HM having unintentionally advanced mankind's understanding of memory many fold, much of memory is still a mystery.
    * "T. of H." is a well known puzzle with three posts and initially many rings stacked on one of them. Each ring has a different diameter size, and not initially nor at any time can a bigger one be placed on top of a smaller one. The complexity of legally moving the rings from their initial post to one of the other two increases very rapidly with the number of rings to be moved.

    I believe the name comes for a game in progress in Hanoi where monks are moving a large number of rings. - Some think that when they finally get them all transferred to a single post (not the original one) the world will end. I forget the number of rings they are working with, but hundreds of years from now when they finish we will know it that is true (assuming the LHC does not get us first.

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    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2008
    Dennis Tate likes this.
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  3. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    In an obituary post you might want to INCLUDE his real name, because just about everybody here never heard of him.
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  5. Enmos Valued Senior Member

    The Queen of England is dead ?
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  7. Zap Facts > Opinions Registered Senior Member

    The Queen is dead. Long live the King!
  8. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    "including name" would have been OK to do, but I do not see the point as probably less than 100 or so people in the whole world knew his name. (I learned it only today, but have known him as HM for 25 years). There are many tens of thousands if not more who, like me, only knew him as "HM". None of the hundreds of papers about him ever gave his name.

    I intended for people to read the link and only added a little, which is not there that I happened to know about. I will tell a little more:

    It is hard to imagine the world HM lived in for 55 years. You could give him an newspaper to read and when he stopped reading or just looking at it and put it down, distract him, take the paper away from his sight for 30 seconds and then give it back to him. He would thank you and begin to read the same news again and it was completely new to him. As there was no "yesterday" (or even "five minutes ago") for HM, time became quite confused, or without any meaning for HM.

    He often wondered why his father did not visit him. If told the truth (that he was dead) he would cry again upon hearing that, (even it was the 100th time he was told.) so usually not told his father was dead. It was ok to tell him that his father would come in about an hour, instead as he would not remember that and might even ask again in a couple of minutes when his father was coming to visit him.

    Although most of his condition was not strange to him, one thing was very strange to him:

    He could see in the mirror that he was and old man, but that was not possible as the last things he could remembered were when he was a young man. He was cheerful and always happy to have visitors, each was always new to him, even if that researcher had been there a hundred times before.

    As the NYT said: For 55 years HM lived in the "now" with no past (except some as a young man, pre-op) perhaps no future, but that is hard to say.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2008
  9. elte Valued Senior Member

    HM, Henry Molaison, had lobotomy surgery as treatment for severe epilepsy, attributed to a bicycle accident age 7.

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