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World Neurosurg. 2015 Oct;84(4):1127-35. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2015.04.031. Epub 2015 Apr 23.

The Legacy of Henry Molaison (1926-2008) and the Impact of His Bilateral Mesial Temporal Lobe Surgery on the Study of Human Memory.

Author information

1
Department of Neurosurgery, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
2
Department of Neurosurgery, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Electronic address: ananda@lsuhsc.edu.

Abstract

In 1953, neurosurgeon William Beecher Scoville performed a bilateral mesial temporal lobe resection on patient Henry Molaison, who suffered from epilepsy. The operation was novel as a treatment for epilepsy and had an unexpected consequence: a severe compromise of Molaison's anterograde memory. In a landmark 1957 publication, Scoville and Milner concluded that mesial temporal lobe structures, particularly the hippocampi, were integral to the formation of new, recent memories. Over the next 5 decades, more than 100 researchers studied Molaison's memory, behavior, and learning skills, making him one of the most famous patients in the history of cognitive neuroscience. Following his death in 2008, his brain was scanned in situ and ex vivo and then sectioned into 2401 sections. Histological evaluation of Molaison's brain further elucidated which mesial temporal lobe structures were preserved or resected in his operation, shedding new light on the neuroanatomic underpinnings of short-term memory. Scoville regretted Molaison's surgical outcome and spoke vigorously about the dangers of bilateral mesial temporal lobe surgery. This report is the first historical account of Molaison's case in the neurosurgical literature, serving as a reminder of Molaison's contributions and of the perils of bilateral mesial temporal lobe surgery.

KEYWORDS:

Amnesia; Hippocampus; Mesial temporal lobe

PMID:
25913428
DOI:
10.1016/j.wneu.2015.04.031
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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