Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What I find fascinating

I'm reading an article in Esquire magazine called The Brain That Changed Everything.  I just get so enthused when reading about the brain and how it works and what happens when you make changes to the brain through surgery.  The article is about a man, H.M., who had the majority of his hippocampus, along with some surrounding neuronal tissue, surgically removed from both hemispheres of his brain to help alleviate the terrible seizures he began having after being hit by a car at age 7.

I haven't finished the article yet, but I'm fascinated by one part of it that describes how a neuroscientist, Brenda Milner, sat "Henry down at a desk and puts a piece of paper in front of him. The paper has a large drawing of a five-pointed star on it. There is a mirror angled at the star and a curtain over the paper so that Henry can no longer see the star directly but can only see its reflection in the mirror. She asks him to trace the star. It's a hard task for anyone, with any sort of brain, though after a while, with practice, people with normal brains tend to improve their results, mastering the necessary counterintuitive muscle movements. The first time Henry tries it, he performs poorly. But the funny thing is, the next time he tries, he does it a little better. And the next time better still. With each new attempt, he never remembers ever having attempted it before, but soon he's completing the task as well as anyone."  Page 4 of the article.

Obviously, the brain works in very interesting and mysterious ways that we have been trying to understand for decades.  It amazes me that H.M. could not remember doing the tracing task multiple times, but another portion of his brain still learned the pattern and stored that information.  I cannot wait to finish reading this article!


  1. I am lucky enough to see this plasticity of our brains in my work all the time. I loved my neuroanatomy class in PT school!

  2. Well, I wish I could understand the brain and why sometimes Dolly seem to be able to talk and others not. Gale said sometimes she sits and stares off into space. ????