I'm sure all my loyal lovely readers know that I work as a graduate student, studying neurobiology, and I'm sure everyone has loved my posts about bird migration and magnetosensation. Since I passed my qualifier, I've brought myself up to date on some literature which deals with some very high level issues about the function of the brain. And it's my blog and I can put here whatever I want, and since this is what's got hold of my mind right now, I'll blog it.
Anyway, I study a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which has long been known to be involved in learning and memory, as well as in siezure initiation in many forms of epilepsy. Nobody really knows what it does, and most of the knowledge comes from determining what happens when you cut it out. One guy, they refer to as patient H.M., like fitty years ago, had real bad epilepsy, so they cut out both of his hippocampi, and it totally screwed him up. He lives and breathes and communicates with others, and you might not know there was anything wrong with him, until you left the room briefly and he totally forgets who you are.
He has short term memory, and he has long term memories - from before his operation, but he can't convert the short term memories into long term memories, something they call anterograde amnesia. It's much like that dude from Memento, which you should definitely go rent right now if you haven't seen it, not because of its biological relevance, but because it's a badass movie.
There's now some data which might explain how that whole "memory consolidation" magic happens, and I think it sheds light on the role of the hippocampus and perhaps the functional organization of the brain.
So tune in next time,