The man who constituted one of the best explored case studies in cognitive psychology, perhaps the best explored case study ever, has passed away. As reported in the Montreal Gazette:

The 82-year-old man scientists have known only as HM died of heart failure Tuesday after decades in a Connecticut chronic care home, unaware of what he gave to science.

In short, H.M. suffered intractable epilepsy for which he underwent a removal of large portions of his temporal lobes. Although successful in curbing his seizures, the procedure resulted in a anterograde memory loss resulting in an individual stuck in time. The rather selective nature of his impairment led to a huge number of investigations and information on the neuronal basis of various processes that we think of under the general term”memory”.
RIP, H.M., voluntarily or not you are a lion of science.
[additional here; h/t: PP]

Recent discussion of the way papers should be presented and comments on the way papers were written in the good old days when Uncle Sol was a wee scientist motivated me to repost something I put up on the old blog July 11, 2007.


First, I’ll tip the hat to Shelley at Retrospectacle for starting a “tour of the vaults” with the classic LSD in elephants study. Today, I’m reaching way back for “A study of trial and error reactions in mammals” by G. V. Hamilton, Journal of Animal Behavior, 1911 Jan-Feb 1(1):33-66. This study is worth reading because it provides an often hilarious insight into the conduct of science at the turn of the past century but also because this study is a root (perhaps the taproot) of a relatively current subfield on spatial working memory and spatial search.

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PalMD poses a really interesting question regarding the medical ethics of running lab tests on a patient to determine if they are drunk:

So here’s a non-life-and-death question: if a patient comes to see you and smells of alcohol, can you add an alcohol level to their blood work without specifically informing them?

As he points out, patients sign a generalized consent for treatment and generally do not expect to micromanage their doctor’s recommendations for tests that need to be run. I would imagine that doctors hardly ever inform their patients, item by item, what will be run on basic blood chemistry and immune panels. I would similarly imagine that should the doctor decide on a followup or two after some initial results s/he might just run them first and tell the patient later if it was a significant health issue.
So why not add a BAL (Blood Alcohol Level; a description of measurements including the familiar blood-alcohol concentration of legal importance) if you suspect a patient has been drinking?

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In the midst of World War I, Wolfgang Köhler conducted a famous series of experiments to investigate problem solving ability in chimpanzees. The lasting impression of these experiments, reinforced by just about every introductory Psychology text, was Köhler’s assertion that the chimps demonstrated “insightful” learning.
Did they now?

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In the midst of World War I, Wolfgang Köhler conducted a famous series of experiments to investigate problem solving ability in chimpanzees. The lasting impression of these experiments, reinforced by just about every introductory Psychology text, was Köhler’s assertion that the chimps demonstrated “insightful” learning.
Did they now?

Read the rest of this entry »