3D image of the most famous brain in neuroscience

The most famous brain in neuroscience belongs to Patient H.M. Don’t worry if you have never heard of Patient H.M., his real name was a medical secret until his death in 2008.

Patient H.M. is famous because of how much his medical condition helped neurologists learn about the inner workings of the human brain. Before Patient H.M., scientists believed that memory was stored throughout the brain. By studying Patient H.M., scientists got their first insight into the evidence that memory was controlled by a small part of the brain called the hippocampi and its attached tissue

Patient H.M.

Patient H.M. was Henry Molaison. All of us owe Mr. Molaison a debt of gratitude. As a child, Mr. Molaison suffered from major epileptic seizures. When epileptic seizures occur lots of neurons in the brain fire all at the same time in an abnormal way. Often seizures occur without warning. They can be mild, with loss of awareness; to severe, with uncontrolled body spasms and loss of consciousness.

Patients with recurring epileptic seizures are often prescribed anti-seizure medication. Mr. Molaison was not helped by this medication. To relieve the severe seizures, Mr. Molaison’s doctor removed the part of Mr. Molaison's brain that was causing the devastating seizures.

Following the surgery, Mr. Molaison’s seizures became manageable, but he no longer possessed short term memory. As the moments of his day went by, Mr. Molaison instantly forgot what he just did. Other parts of his memory were intact, but not his short term memory.

Mr. Molaison allowed himself to be studied by neurologists throughout his life, and after his death he donated his brain for further study.

3D brain

Mr. Molaison's brain has been studied by many neurologists. In order to provide access to more scientists who wish to study Mr. Molaison’s brain, it has been made into a 3D virtual model.

This 41 second video shows the painstaking slicing of the frozen brain that was done to form the layered images of Mr. Molaison’s brain. This video is not for the squeamish.

For more information about this fascinating case study, read the article printed in New Scientist.