I’ve got the brain on my mind lately. Every spare minute I read more of Patient H.M., a new book by Luke Dittrich. It delves behind the scenes in the development of ablative brain surgery during its ‘wild west’ beginnings, where there was not even a thought about informing the patient, most of whom had mental illnesses. The historical event portrayed in great depth was the operation on H.M., who had intractable epilepsy. That he was not ‘insane’, made him the perfect subject for experimentation. And William Scoville, the surgeon did just that. He surgically vacuumed away, bilaterally, most of the medial temporal lobe, without any medical foundation or reason to do so. This left H.M. with no short term memory.
This is as far as I got in the book. After I finish, I want to revisit another book I read years ago, written by the famous Russian neurophysiologist, A.R. Luria, called The Man with the Shattered Mind. This book details his study of a soldier, brain-injured on the battlefield who, as a result, also had no short term memory.
Today’s watercolor is a combination of abstract portraits of Mike, my older brother* and me superimposed on a stylized drawing of a brain. If the portrait is shifted 90 degrees clockwise, one can more easily see the sketch of the brain.
* Mike is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. A search of my site will reveal more posts about him, my long term project photographing him and other artwork inspired by my attempts to communicate with him.