August 28, 2016

Patient H.M.

Patient H.M

Luke Dittrich

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 *This review is based on an advanced reading copy. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a chance to read the book in exchange for an honest review*

Any psychology student will recall the name of one of the most famous amnesiac cases, Patient H.M. In this time, the lobotomy was a common procedure that William Beecher Scoville performed almost daily on psychotic people stuck in asylums for little behavioral changes. Decades later, Scoville's grandson researches into his famous neurosurgeon grandfather's life and 'psychosurgeries' leading up to, and including, his most famous patient Henry Molaison. 

Not only does this book give a detailed history of Scoville's life as a neurosurgeon, but it also gives us the past, present, and future of one of the most groundbreaking discoveries in neuroanatomy and memory. After Henry took a fall during a bike accident, he started grappling with epilepsy which thoroughly impacted his way of life. He became desperate to be rid of his seizures and multiple medications that hindered his daily functioning. Scoville recommended a new type of experimental lobotomy he had been working on, and performed the surgery not long after. By removing almost all of Henry's medial temporal region (including the hippocampus), Henry suffered from complete anterograde amnesia, meaning that he could not hold any memories from after the surgery. 

This book is a wealth of education into the history of neurosurgery and experiments concerning localization of the brain's functioning. It was an in-depth look at how this case and many other cases of the time were treated and weighed the costs and benefits of cutting into a living human's brain before the useful technology we have today was created. Although I felt the book skipped around a bit, I learned so much about the field that I fell in love with and felt that this read helped me to grasp the importance of the brain's functioning, human subject treatment, and psychology's history into obtaining the information that we have of the brain today. Great read.  

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