Thursday, December 03, 2009

H.M.’s Brain and Soapbox Races

Today is historical. The brain of H. M. is being cut into slices. For those of you who don't know who H. M. is, he is a famous psychological case study. He had epilepsy to start out with, and in the 1950's, they didn't exactly have the best idea about how to treat disorders like epilepsy, or depression for that matter (for instance, lobotomies). Anyway, because H. M. was an epilepsy patient, doctors and psychologists decided the best treatment would be to remove his amygdala. However, in the process of removing H. M.'s amygdala, the surgeons also took out parts of H. M.'s hippocampus and parahippocampal gyrus. Now, the hippocampus and amygdala are the main parts of memory. So, you can guess what happened. Ever since his "treatment," H. M.'s epilepsy was controlled, but he had problems with his long-term memory. He still had access to his working memory (short term, could remember lists of words, up to six or seven words long), and access to his procedural memory (long-term memory of skills, according to Wikipedia). But his long-term memory and encoding of events into his long term memory was impaired severely. Think 50 First Dates, but a guy, and not dating.

Anyway, the neuroscientists at UCSD (University of California, San Diego) are in the process of cutting H. M.'s brain into paper thin slices and putting the slices between glass to preserve them. It's pretty disgusting to watch, actually.

Anyway, onto another random thought: I was riding down the soapbox derby, thinking about physics. Yes, physics. I was riding down the derby thinking that soapbox racing was so very corrupt. The kid whose soapbox weighs the most, or the kid who weighs the most, or the parent who cheats and puts bricks in the child's soapbox always wins, because the way you know if something is going to go fast down the hill is not how big the wheels are, but how much wait is on them, because, as I learned in my physics class, the weight is what propels the car down the hill. I just looked at the rules online, and the rules say that there is a weight restriction for the child, and a weight restriction for the car with the child in it. But it didn't say anything about weighting the car down to the maximum weight possible. K. S. says that's cheating, but I think it's just a means of finding a loophole, and making the system work for you.