Amnesic Provides Research in Cognition and Brain Science

December 8, 2008
By Seth Greenberg

H.M., an unforgettable amnesiac, died Friday, December 5, 2008. For five decades he was recognized as the most important patient in the history of brain science. As a participant in hundreds of studies, he helped scientists understand the biology of learning, memory and physical dexterity, as well as the fragile nature of human identity.

From the age of 27, when he embarked on a life as an object of intensive study, he lived with his parents, then with a relative and finally in an institution. His amnesia did not damage his intellect or radically change his personality. But he could not hold a job and lived, more so than any mystic, in the movement.

He provided psychology with the type of information that has informed much of the current research in cognition and brain science.