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A very detailed look at a very famous brain

Esquire recently published a long piece on Henry Molaison, an amnesic patient studied for decades before dying in 2008, whose brain is being sectioned and reconstructed to create a map of his brain. Luke Dittrich writes:

The laboratory at night, the lights down low. An iMac streams a Pat Metheny version of an Ennio Morricone tune while Dr. Jacopo Annese, sitting in front of his ventilated biosafety cabinet, a small paintbrush in his hand, teases apart a crumpled slice of brain. The slice floats in saline solution in a shallow black plastic tray, and at first it looks exactly like a piece of ginger at a good sushi restaurant, one where they don't dye the ginger but leave it pale. Then Annese's brush, with its practiced dabs and tugs, gently unfurls it. The slice becomes a curlicued silhouette, recognizable for what it is, what organ it comes from, even if you are not, as Annese is, a neuroanatomist.

And, as if this story couldn't get more interesting, the Esquire piece is written by the grandson of the surgeon who removed a portion of Molaison's brain:

August 25, 1953. Henry lies on his back on an operating table in the Hartford Hospital neurosurgery suite. At the head of the table, flanked by scrub nurses and assistants, my grandfather leans over Henry with a trepan in his hand. Henry has been sedated and given a local anesthetic, and the flesh has been peeled down from his forehead, but he is conscious. A trepan is a sort of wide-mouthed serrated drill. The particular trepan he's using, like a lot of his surgical instruments, and like the operation itself, is of his own invention. To make this trepan, he bought a hole saw from a local auto-supply or machine shop for about a dollar, then attached it to a standard Hudson drill handle, the kind you crank by hand. Now he places the trepan down onto Henry's exposed skull, just above one of his eye sockets, and bears down.

Fascinating and worth reading in its entirety. A video of the dissection process, which took place in December 2009, is what you see above.

Previously: UCSD to begin studying brain of famous amnesiac

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