The hippocampus before H.M.

Department of Philosophy, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

William Scoville and Brenda Milner's patient H.M. rivals Phineas T. Gage and Paul Broca's "Tan" as the most well-known and influential case study in the history of functional localization in the brain. Specifically, the case of H.M. is frequently depicted as a crucial turning point in the understanding of the neural mechanisms of memory. An adequate account of the significance of H.M for the study of hippocampal function must address the state of the literature prior to Scoville and Milner's first report (1957). An investigation of research reports and textbooks reveals a wide variety of functions associated with the hippocampus prior to H.M., many of which echo well into the 1970's and 80's. I want to examine the evidential foundations of these functional attributions and the reasons, if any, for their gradual disappearance from scientific currency and pedagogy. By tracking developments in functional localization of the hippocampus, I hope to assess the extent to which different views were influenced by different experimental techniques, different field affiliations, and other developments (such as the discovery of Long-Term Potentiation) that are not directly relevant to assessing the function of the hippocampus.

Session III -- Neuropsychology, Language and Cognition
Sunday, 2 June 2002, 4:15 pm

Seventh Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Los Angeles, California, USA