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The Boston Globe

Magazine

First Person

Lessons of an amnesiac

MIT neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin, author of the new book “Permanent Present Tense,” tells of her nearly five decades studying a man whose memory loss transformed science.

Henry [Molaison, 1926-2008] was intelligent and friendly. When we asked how he felt about being a research participant, he would say, “Whatever I can do to help others.” His case basically revolutionized THE SCIENCE OF MEMORY.    

Before the age of 10, he had A VERY MINOR HEAD INJURY. He wasn’t hospitalized, no concussion. But when he was 10, he started having petit mal seizures, and on his 15th birthday, he had a generalized convulsion where he was shaking, rigid, frothing at the mouth. And from then on he had more of these. He was highly medicated, but the drugs weren’t doing their job. This is very dangerous. It’s not good for your brain, it’s not good for your heart.

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