Date of this Version
Although psychologists and neurologists have been familiar with the case of H.M. for years, this small volume makes his story—and what it can teach us about the functioning of memory—accessible to a much wider audience. Hilts has done a good job of piecing together H.M.’s early life, in the absence of any living relatives and all but a few written records. He recreates the life of a very normal youth in the 1930s and 1940s; normal, that is, until H.M.’s first epileptic seizure. In 1954, after several other treatments for the epilepsy had failed, H.M. (at age 27) had a bilateral medial temporal lobectomy, in the hope that it would alleviate his seizures. A neurosurgeon removed large sections of both temporal lobes, as well as much of the limbic system, including the amygdala and hippocampus. Since the surgery, H.M.—who was still alive when the book was written—suffers from a pervasive anterograde amnesia. In particular, H.M. has contributed greatly to our understanding of the neuroanatomy of memory and implicit memory.