WNPR

Remembering H.M.: The Man Who Couldn't Remember

Apr 3, 2018

H.M. is one of the most important and studied human research subjects of all time. He revolutionized what we know about memory today because of the amnesia he developed after a lobotomy in 1953 to treat the severe epilepsy he developed after a head injury sustained earlier in life. 

Lobotomy was a popular surgery in the post-war decades of the 1940's and 1950's. Doctors knew little about the brain or how its structures controlled emotion and memory, Lobotomy and other therapies, such as "Pyretotherapy," which induced high fevers, may sound inhumane to the modern ear, but they were considered the best of what was known at the time. 

There was much still to be discovered about the workings of the brain in 1950 and Hartford Hospital and the Institute of Living were on the forefront of experimentation. Ambitious doctors like Hartford's William Beecher Scoville, and the Institute's Charles Burlingame, were eager to advance medical research and make their mark in a time when the concept of ethical codes and informed consent were in their infancy. It was during this time that Henry Molaison and his family entered the office of Dr. Scoville.

The grandson of William Beecher Scoville will join us.

GUESTS:

  • Luke Dittrich - Journalist and the author of Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets.  
  • Dr. Hank Schwartz - Psychiatrist-in-Chief, VP for Behavioral Health, Institute of Living, Hartford Healthcare and Professor of Psychiatry, UConn School of Medicine
  • Dr. David Glahn - Director, Affective Disorders and Psychosis Trials, Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, Hartford Healthcare and Professor of Psychiatry, Yale

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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired on September 20, 2017.