“You’re beautiful,” Clive Wearing told his wife Deborah while beaming like a newlywed. Deborah was delighted. However, she knew that if she left the room and returned, Clive would act in the same manner.
Clive Wearing was a well-known British conductor until in 1985, at the age of 47, he contracted a rare virus that damaged his central nervous system. This occurred almost six months after his wedding to Deborah and since then he is unable to recall much of his past and cannot create new memories. His wife is the only one Wearing recognizes.
Our memories make us who we are. They link our pasts to our presents. It is only when such a precious treasure is lost that we realize how important they truly are.
For this research cycle, I decided to share with you some of the stories of a couple of people who have unique tales to tell because of their ability to always live in the present. Clive Wearing, who was discussed above, is one such individual. Although Wearing was unable to recall the past very well, he still remembered skills such as how to speak English or play the piano. Clive’s case of amnesia was brought about by the Herpes encephalitis virus which had a significant effect on the hippocampus, the brain’s memory making command center. The hippocampus is also an important factor in our next case.
Henry Molaison, known to many as “HM,” had been suffering from epileptic seizures for years. In 1953, after having undergone several treatments that did not work, Molaison underwent a surgery to remove the part of the brain that the doctors believed was the cause of most of his seizures. The specific parts that were removed were the hippocampus, the amygdala and the entorhinal cortex. When Molaison woke up, he was able to recall things about his childhood but was unable to form new memories. He could only remember events eleven years prior to when the surgery happened, when he would have been 16. Until then, it had been unknown that the hippocampus was actually essential for making memories. This finding was shared widely to ensure that such an operation would not happen again. Henry Molaison’s name (or initiatials) had been mentioned in around 12, 000 journal articles which makes him the most studied case in both medical and psyocholgical history. It was only after his death in 2008 that HM’s name was revealed to the world.
In both cases, it is clear that the hippocampus is a valuable asset and is essential to memory formation. For my next research round, I will continue with how memories (episodic memories in particular) are formed and what part is played by the hippocampus.
Green, H. (2014, May 05) How We Make Memories - Crash Course Psychology #13 [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSycdIx-C48
Green, H. (2016, March 06). Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq0aQAG0A3o
Ogden, J. (2012, January 16). HM, the Man with No Memory. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.co...hm-the-man-no-memory
Risch, D. (2008, May-June). Forever new. Odyssey, 17(5), 16+. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps...sbo&xid=e78cd434