Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Project H.M. - Watch the Dissection!

Psychology enthusiasts (and my students, who will read about him in their psychology textbooks this unit) remember fondly the case-study patient known as "H.M." One of the most intensely studied subjects in the history of psychology, "H.M" had undergone brain surgery in 1953 but awoke with no ability to form new memories. "H.M." (and the researchers who studied him) taught us a great deal about the types of memories human beings possess. Sadly, H.M. passed away about a year ago, but he did donate his brain to science, continuing his incredibly legacy in the history of neuroscience and memory research.

TODAY, Researchers at the University of California, San Diego begin the delicate task of slicing his brain into tiny, tiny pieces 70 microns thick and scanning them for digital preservation. When they are done, researchers from around the world will be able to peek into the brain of this incredible man.

You can watch the dissection live over the web, starting today.
We watched some of this in my afternoon classes and students were fascinated! They've now actually started cutting the slides (for the first few hours, they were just trimming the gelatin block in which the brain is encased). Amazing!

To learn more about the delicate procedure being used to preserve H.M.'s brain, check out this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Here's what the Brain Observatory says (as of 3:40 PM CST):
We are going to cut through the entire brain over the next 50 hours. The very thin slices are going to be preserved in serial order and each will be ultimately stained and preserved in glass slides. The collection will represent a complete microscopic map of the brain of patient HM. This process will be extremely costly. Each glass slide alone costs $4! Any contribution, however small, will be crucial to the completion of this historic collection. To become a sponsor of patient H.M.’s giant histological glass slides, send your check to: The Brain Observatory, 3510 Dunhill Street, San Diego, CA 92121 Or make your generous donation by following this link: Donate

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