Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

21Amnesia is a “fascinating” state, which is why it is often used in films and novels. This kind of "wonderful" event often occurs after the unfortunate shovels on the head with a large blunt object. After that, as Hollywood usually tells, the characters find themselves in an amazing world without a past, where they struggle to remember important information. Sometimes amnesia is temporary and this is why it is very suitable for a movie of one and a half or two hours. Although it happens that amnesia is a problem for life.

But there is another type of amnesia that is rarely covered in the media. It appears spontaneously, without warning or for any good reason. Such amnesia makes its victims forget the good part of their past and turn off the opportunity to form new memories. Such people are usually disoriented and confused, but what is surprising is that within 24 hours the amnesia disappears and the former mental abilities return to the patient. This subspecies of amnesia is called Transient Global Amnesia (TGA).This type of amnesia is one of the most innocuous, although it remains one of the most mysterious.

No one knows the exact cause of TGA, but there are several assumptions. First, it occurs most often in the elderly. This condition can also be caused by stress or emotional trauma, but again it is impossible to say for sure. In addition, many people who have experienced TGA also suffer from migraines, so it is believed that TGA can be a kind of mega-migraine that “hangs” the brain.

People who are affected by TGA retain all their normal cognitive abilities, they can talk and function normally, except that everything they learn will be forgotten within a few minutes, which is evidence that the information stored on the Brain RAM is not transmitted to Permanent (Long Term) Recording Device. Naturally, this situation is very confusing to people. A person suffering from TGA can constantly ask questions to get basic information. Such questions include the questions: “Where am I?”, “What is happening?” ...Your answers do not help them in the long run, so after a few minutes they can repeat the following questions ... well, you know.

At best, TGA does not last long (only a few hours), but it may take a whole day or more to recover completely, just like after a hangover. TGA can also be a sign of the development of a more serious disease, such as a brain tumor, so it’s best to show a person to a doctor right away and have an MRI scan of the brain.

And today I will tell you the story of the most famous patient suffering from TGA, TGA is not simple, but life-long.

“I don't remember” is the standard answer of Henry Gustav Molison, which could be heard from him. Many people were interested in how he spends the day, what he ate for breakfast, and not because he is an Instagram star, but because all his efforts to bring information from his mind were useless. He could easily answer questions concerning his childhood and early adulthood up to a certain point, but after a certain point he was deprived of any memories. In fact, from time to time Henry felt as though he had just awakened from a deep sleep, and that his fleeting remnants were already beyond his power.Every experience, funny or dramatic, evaporates from his memory for several dozen beats of his heart and leaves no trace.

For more than fifty years, Henry lived with anterograde amnesia, which is characterized by complete loss of memory, it also prevents the transfer of new memories to long-term memory. As a result, he only has memories of those with whom he was familiar before his amnesia, and this is a small window in the moments immediately preceding the present.

Anterograde amnesia, like TGA, does not deprive the sufferer's identity, past and skills, but deprives him of the opportunity to form new memories. The last memories of such a person seem to be permanently frozen, and are often accompanied by the constant feeling that he has just come to their senses to their “unconscious” state, which has filled a period of time.

In 1953, in his late teens, Henry was considered a very intelligent student, but unfortunately began to experience frequent convulsive seizures, characterized by loss of consciousness, muscle cramps and stiffness.The frequency of these seizures very soon increased to such an extent that five minutes did not pass, so that he would not collapse.

After meeting with Henry advanced at that time, Dr. William Scoville underwent a radical resection of the medial temporal lobes. The doctor sought to restore the quality of life to young Henry. Yes, in this respect, the experimental operation was successful, the patient had severe contractions, but the surgeon was upset to find that removing the hippocampus deprived Henry of his ability to form new memories.

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New "feature" of Henry seriously complicated his normal life, but because of his condition he became the most famous object in the world in the study of the human brain. This did not want to give publicity, because all previous studies were conducted exclusively on animals. Therefore, he entered the history of science under the initials "H. M." He was described as a friendly person with a higher IQ than the average person. He was athletic and knew how to fascinate his appearance, even despite his condition. Even in the early eighties, he still vividly recalled events from his childhood, such as the stock market crash of 1929, and also experienced grief every time when he learned about his mother’s death.The grief was short-lived, as was any new information and reaction to it, but grief was the clearest proof of the “working memory” problem.

Like most patients suffering from anterograde amnesia, Henry experienced the effects of retrograde amnesia, as well as the erosion of memories and details months before the fatal operation.

Similar cases of anterograde amnesia have appeared over the years. They are often caused by Korsakov syndrome, which is characterized by a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1) caused by chronic alcoholism, malnutrition, malnutrition, or poisoning. Also, the causes of this condition can be many different diseases.

A neuroscientist named Suzanne Corkin had been with Henry for about forty-three years, but every time he met her, as if he saw her for the first time. However, once, when in a conversation with Henry, they mentioned about "Dr. Korkin", he immediately specified "Susanna?". At that time there was no woman nearby, which means that he somehow linked the name of the woman.

Over the years of observation, Suzanne witnessed how Henry’s brain struggled to find alternative ways to connect.Over time, he remembered that the US president named John Kennedy was killed in 1963, he also learned how to draw a diagram of the house in which he lived after the operation. Henry also didn't care about the face of the old man, who was looking at him from the mirror. When asked what he thinks about how he looks, he calmly replied, "I am not a boy." He also seemed to realize that his memory was disturbed, and that scientists were studying him to learn more about the human mind. One day, when asked if he was happy, Henry answered without hesitation “Yes.” After that, he added “I think that what scientists learn about me will help them when they decide to help other people.”

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Most conversations with Henry are quite monotonous, but sometimes it seemed that his brain was waking up. During a visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for memory tests, as they walked along a nondescript corridor, Dr. Corkin asked Henry if he knew where they were. To which Henry replied, "Of course, I am at MIT."

Taken aback, Dr. Corkin asked: “How do you know?”

Laughing, Henry pointed to a student wearing an MIT sweater. "This time you got caught!"

Such incidents indicated his sense of humor and deductive abilities, untouched by time and operation.

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The only realistic example of anterograde amnesia was shown by Hollywood in the movie "Remember" (Memento) from 2001. The authors of the film applied inverse chronology to mimic the effects of the state of a person suffering from similar amnesia, which allowed viewers to feel what it is.

His last years, Henry spent in Connecticut in a nursing home, where he also continued to help researchers of the human mind. After his death, he inherited his brain to science, which will help scientists to solve the problems of amnesia. December 2, 2008, Henry Gustav Molison (or simply H.M.) was gone. This man lived a surprisingly useful life, most of which he did not remember.

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  • Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

    Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

    Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

    Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

    Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

    Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

    Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

    Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

    Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

    Henry Gustav Molison - a story of unusual amnesia

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