Are we just a random sequence of memories?

By: Jorge Caraballo

I believe that humans are stories. The identity of each one of us is significantly built over the memories of events and feelings that we experience during our lives. But what would happen if we weren’t able to create a narrative about ourselves? What if our minds couldn’t remember the lessons we’ve learned, the things that we love, the dreams that we have? The story of Henry Molaison (Patient H.M), a man who could not develop new memories after he underwent a targeted lobotomy when he was 27, can help us answer these questions.

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I found Luke Dittrich’s story about Patient H.M. an inspiring starting point to know more about this famous case in contemporary science, and also to keep researching the relationship between language, memory and identity.

The objective is to use Dittrich’s story in Esquire Magazine as a cornerstone for a digital storytelling project of our interest. To do that I have to read more about Patient H.M., and also to study the relationship between memory and identity.


I did an online search looking for articles, papers and videos about the case, and this is what I found to start my investigation and have a solid understanding of the story.

  1. A Nature’s paper where Jacopo Annese sumarizes what he and his team found after studying the brain of Henry Molaison. It’s from 2014| Postmortem examination of patient H.M.’s brain based on histological sectioning and digital 3D reconstruction: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140128/ncomms4122/full/ncomms4122.html#f1

2. Video of the slicing of Henry Molaison. This process was live streamed for 53 hours (YouTube) | HM Brain Slicing.

3. A friend of Jacopo Annese explains with details the case of Patient H.M.| Patient H.M. and Jacopo Annese:

4. Jacoppo Annese’s personal project | The Institute of Brain and Society: http://brainandsociety.org/about-us/

5. Another case of amnesia in a patient. Can it be compared with the case of Henry Molaison?| Clive Wearing — The man with no short-term memory.

6. A summary of Patient H.M. case that includes interesting links to further readings | Brain Case Study — Patient HM: http://bigpictureeducation.com/brain-case-study-patient-hm

7. What’s new with patient HM? — http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v3/n2/abs/nrn726.html

Books:

Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient, H. M. | Author: Suzanne Corkin.

In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind | Author: Eric R. Kandel.

What kind of creature are we? | Author: Noam Chomsky.

Two questions for possible stories:

  1. Are there more patients that have been useful for recent science development, even though they suffer from weird diseases?

2. Is there any relationship between memory studies and development of artificial intelligence?