-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Jan. 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A 3-D model of the
brain of a man who lived for 55 years with almost total amnesia is
revealing new clues about what caused his memory loss, and could
lead to a better understanding of memory, researchers report.
Henry Molaison (often referred to as H.M.) lost his ability to
store new memories after undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy in
1953. The surgery was performed in the medial temporal lobe region
of the brain, including the hippocampus.
What followed is described in a new paper, published online Jan.
28 in the journal
Despite the memory loss, Molaison's language, intellectual
skills, personality and perceptual skills remained intact. The
extent of his memory loss made him a unique patient and he took
part in numerous neurological studies until his death in 2008. His
case provided the first conclusive evidence that the hippocampus
plays a role in forming new memories, the study authors explained
in a news release from the University of California, San Diego.
In 2009, researchers led by Jacopo Annese at UCSD dissected
Molaison's brain into 2,401 tissue slices that were frozen in
order. As the brain was being sliced, the researchers took digital
images that have been used to create a 3-D microscopic model of the
Compared to MRI scans taken when Molaison was alive, the 3-D
model can offer much more insight into what happened in his brain
during the epilepsy surgery and how it affected his memory, the
study authors noted.
"Our goal was to create this 3-D model so we could revisit, by virtual dissection, the original surgical procedure and support retrospective studies by providing clear anatomical verification of the original brain lesion and the pathological state of the [surrounding] areas of H.M.'s brain," Annese said in the news release.
The 3-D model has already revealed a small, previously
undiscovered wound site in the brain's left orbitofrontal cortex.
It was likely caused during the 1953 surgery, Annese said.
The UCSD team has created a web-based atlas of Molaison's brain
that can be viewed using Google maps.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
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