A good piece in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle reviews the key role epilepsy patients and their doctors have played in the history of neuroscience. The article, Epilepsy Opens a New Window Onto Brain Function, by Kristen Brown, focuses on the emerging importance of intracranial studies of epilepsy patients whose brains have been wired with electrodes to help locate the foci of their seizures. While these patients are being observed, they often donate their wired-brain-time to science, granting by far the best available extended access to the inside of a conscious human brain. But Brown's piece also looks at key contributions of Henry Molaison, who taught us much of what we know about human memory when his hippocampus was removed to quell his seizures, and Wilder Penfield, who first described the functional geography of the motor and sensory cortices by systematically stimulating and observing the effects in his patients.
This is fascinating stuff! Someone should write a book on the subject!
Gordy Slackwrites about neuroscience, evolution, the environment, and science & religion for manypublications. He has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times,New Scientist, San Francisco Magazine, Salon, and The Scientist. He is the author of The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything: Evolution, Intelligent Design and a School Board in Dover, PA.Slack is currently working on a book about epilepsy.
“Gordy Slack has written a lively, lucid account of a fascinating trial.” --Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker