A Story of Memory, Madness and Family SecretsBook - 2016
In the late 1930s, in asylums and hospitals across America, a group of renowned neurosurgeons worked to develop and refine a new class of brain operation--the lobotomy--that they hoped would eradicate everything from schizophrenia to homosexuality. These "psychosurgeons," as they called themselves, occupied a gray zone between medical research and medical practice, and ended up subjecting untold numbers of people to the types of surgical experiments once limited to chimpanzees. The most important test subject to emerge from this largely untold chapter was a 27-year-old factory worker named Henry Molaison. In 1953, Henry--who suffered from severe epilepsy--received a radical new version of the lobotomy. The operation failed to eliminate Henry's seizures, but it did have an unintended effect: Henry left the operating room profoundly amnesic, unable to create new long-term memories. Over the next sixty years, Patient H.M., as Henry was known, became the most studied individual in the history of neuroscience, a human guinea pig who would teach us much of what we know about memory today. Journalist Luke Dittrich uses his case as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey, from the first recorded brain surgeries in ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge laboratories of MIT. Throughout, he delves into the enduring mysteries of the mind while exposing troubling stories of just how far we've gone in our pursuit of knowledge. It is also, at times, a deeply personal journey: Dittrich's grandfather was the brilliant, morally complex surgeon who operated on Molaison--and thousands of other patients. The author's investigation into the dark roots of modern memory science ultimately forces him to confront unsettling secrets in his own family history, and to reveal the tragedy that fueled his grandfather's relentless experimentation--which would revolutionize our understanding of ourselves. This book combines biography, memoir, and science journalism to create a haunting story that reveals the wondrous and devastating things that can happen when hubris, ambition, and human imperfection collide.--Adapted from dust jacket.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 
Copyright Date: ©2016
Branch Call Number: 362.19 DITTRICH
Characteristics: xv, 440 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm