HM Brain Slicing: So much better than TV

In case any of you peeps have missed it (and you never know), the great memory patient, HM, died last year on Dec 2, 2008.
HM was an epilepsy patient who suffered horrible seizures from age 16 on. Finally, we was referred to a neurosurgeon, who localized the seizures to the medial temporal lobes, and he had them removed in 1953. The good news: new epilepsy. The bad news: no MEMORY. HM retained all of the memories from before the surgery, but until the day of his death, was unable to create new ones. He continually thought it was 1953. He was capable of doing things requiring short term memory and retained an IQ of 112, but could not remember anything new taught to him. Interestingly, he could retain motor memories, and could learn new motor procedures and remember them, though he didn’t remember learning them. HM was altogether a fascinating patient, and taught neuroscientists a huge amount about the brain. Unfortunately, due to his severe amnesia, he lived the rest of his life in a care institute, dying peacefully in 2008.
Though obviously informed consent was a little difficult, every time they asked, HM agreed to donate his brain to science, and the person with his power of attorney also agreed. Thus HM’s brain is currently being SLICED into 70um (those are microns, very small) thick sections, in the hopes that we will be able to gain even more knowledge about the man and his brain following death. You can follow the slicing, which is going to take 50 hours, here and here. They’re about to reach the temporal lobes, and there it should get very exciting! It’s a big moment for neuroscience.
Sci is totally geeking out about this, and she and her charming co-blogger Evil Monkey have been tweeting it up over the past few hours (Evil is @neurotopia, and you should follow him on twitter). Some of the people Sci has talked to have expressed reservations about having their brains (or bodies) sliced on live video feed. Sci personally thinks she wouldn’t mind at all, if it was for scientific benefit. Also, I have been told I have a very pretty brain. But she would be interested to hear the thoughts of others. Would you donate your brain to science? Would you mind being sliced (after death) on live video? Why or why not?

13 Responses

  1. I would be honored to donate my brain to science, and I would think it’s neat for people to be able to watch.
    My fellow grad students and I have really been enjoying watching the slicing. The group is very good at keeping us updated on what they’re doing and what part of the brain they’re on. So neat!

  2. I’d be glad to have my brain used in the pursuit of scientific advancement. Once I’m done with it they can have my entire body. Sliced up for study, education, feeding starving graduate students, or to keep their compost pile happy.

  3. I agree with you, I’d like to know what they found in it. Maybe if I get to die of a horrible cancer or something similar, that takes months to kill you, it would be possible to take little pieces out? Like, take a piece of one hemisphere every week, so you get to notice the difference and see the results. Yeah, very gross and very wrong, but that’d be so cool.

  4. fascinating. better than watching teevee and laundry spin. i nominate you for the woman’s brain slicing because your scans were totally hot, plus it would be way cool to have “scicurious slicing” as a live web event.

  5. Exciting for the first 140um… and that’s one big brush!

  6. I was mesmerized by this video. Is amazing. Thank goodness I started following you on twitter right after you said it started.
    I wouldn’t care less about what they do to my body once I’m dead. It would be cool if someone find a good use off my lifeless carcass, but frankly I have absolutely no attachment to my corpse.

  7. Take my corpse, please! But not right now🙂

  8. Would you donate your brain to science? Would you mind being sliced (after death) on live video? Why or why not?

    After I’ve moved out of it, sure, why not? It’s not like vacant real estate, where someone can just move their own stuff in and take up residence! The only thing I can think of that might be a problem with having it sliced and diced on video would be if it distressed my husband or my son, and I can’t see that they would be, so slice away.

  9. If you have a serious mental illness (Depression/Bipolar/Schizophrenia) and wish to donate your brain, how do you go about finding an institution likely to utilize it optimally?

  10. The good news: new epilepsy.

    I guess it’s great that he got his epilepsy replaced … wait, what?

  11. Are they doing a high-res scan of the section after the removal of each slice? I sure hope so, but I can’t see it in the video.
    It would be very sad if the relatively low-res (and not ideal angle) video they’re streaming over the internet was the only record of H.M.’s brain.

  12. I’d be totally happy for any/all of my corpse to be used for any type of scientific research/spare part surgery etc… and have this wish written down and recorded and my next of kin all know it and agree with it. I’d hope I was doing one last useful thing for someone. As for sharing it on video or whatever, well, I certainly wouldn’t mind.

  13. I’d be totally happy for any/all of my corpse to be used for any type of scientific research/spare part surgery etc… and have this wish written down and recorded and my next of kin all know it and agree with it. I’d hope I was doing one last useful thing for someone. As for sharing it on video or whatever, well, I certainly wouldn’t mind.

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