A patient known for most of five decades only by his initials, H.M., led to one of the most significant turning points in 20th-century brain science: the understanding that complex functions such as learning and memory are tied to distinct biological processes and regions of the brain. Following a childhood blow to the head, Henry Molaison developed severe seizures. Eighteen years later, still experiencing debilitating symptoms, he underwent an experimental procedure that removed sections of his medial temporal lobes — including most of his two hippocampi. The seizures abated, but Molaison was left with permanent amnesia. He could remember scenes from his childhood, some facts about his parents, and historical events that occurred before his surgery, but was unable to form new conscious memories.
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