The Man with the 30 Second Memory
Henry Molaison after his high-school graduation.
In 1953 Henry Molaison, a sufferer of severe epilepsy, underwent experimental brain surgery that saved his life and robbed him of it at the same time. While the removal of bits of Henry’s brain (the hippocampi and parts of both amygdala) cured his condition, it also left him with a sort of amnesia, the likes of which neuroscience had never seen: every 30 seconds his memory was completely erased. Molaison became the first sacrificial martyr in the study of human memory. Although as a subject he was responsible for 60 years of breakthroughs in neuroscience, as a person he was reduced to clawing at facts that swirled round his conscious. After his father passed away, he carried a note in his pocket that read “Dad’s dead.”Dr. Suzanne Corkin met Henry in 1962 when she was only a med school graduate. Having become his lead investigator in 1982, she spent the next 46 years of her life working with him. I gave Dr. Corkin a call to try to understand what not being able to remember a parent’s death must feel like.
VICE: Hi Dr. Corkin. In your book, Permanent Present Tense, you make a beautiful analogy which to me sums up Henry’s condition sublimely. You write that “information collects in the hotel lobby of Henry’s brain but can’t check into any of the rooms.” Could you expand on this for me?

Dr Suzanne Corkin: This is what inspired the title of my book, and that means basically that he was always living in the moment. He couldn’t tell you what he had done earlier that day, or the day before, or the month before. Once you distracted him, he couldn’t remember what he’d just been talking to you about.


I’m gonna try an analogy myself: It sounds like the closest experience we would have to Henry’s condition would be walking into a room and immediately forgetting our reason for doing so. Was this a constant frustration for Henry? Well, he got used to that. He lived in very familiar surroundings after his operation. He lived with his parents and spent a lot of time in that house. So he got used to walking from one room to another without really knowing why. Presumably if he had to go to the bathroom he knew why he walked to the bathroom. He didn’t know where things were kept. He helped with yard work and he didn’t know where the tools were commonly kept.


Did he often watch the same films over and over?

Oh sure, he could read the same magazines over and over too.


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The Man with the 30 Second Memory

Henry Molaison after his high-school graduation.

In 1953 Henry Molaison, a sufferer of severe epilepsy, underwent experimental brain surgery that saved his life and robbed him of it at the same time. While the removal of bits of Henry’s brain (the hippocampi and parts of both amygdala) cured his condition, it also left him with a sort of amnesia, the likes of which neuroscience had never seen: every 30 seconds his memory was completely erased. Molaison became the first sacrificial martyr in the study of human memory. Although as a subject he was responsible for 60 years of breakthroughs in neuroscience, as a person he was reduced to clawing at facts that swirled round his conscious. After his father passed away, he carried a note in his pocket that read “Dad’s dead.”

Dr. Suzanne Corkin met Henry in 1962 when she was only a med school graduate. Having become his lead investigator in 1982, she spent the next 46 years of her life working with him. I gave Dr. Corkin a call to try to understand what not being able to remember a parent’s death must feel like.


VICE: Hi Dr. Corkin. In your book, Permanent Present Tense, you make a beautiful analogy which to me sums up Henry’s condition sublimely. You write that “information collects in the hotel lobby of Henry’s brain but can’t check into any of the rooms.” Could you expand on this for me?


Dr Suzanne Corkin: This is what inspired the title of my book, and that means basically that he was always living in the moment. He couldn’t tell you what he had done earlier that day, or the day before, or the month before. Once you distracted him, he couldn’t remember what he’d just been talking to you about.



I’m gonna try an analogy myself: It sounds like the closest experience we would have to Henry’s condition would be walking into a room and immediately forgetting our reason for doing so. Was this a constant frustration for Henry? 
Well, he got used to that. He lived in very familiar surroundings after his operation. He lived with his parents and spent a lot of time in that house. So he got used to walking from one room to another without really knowing why. Presumably if he had to go to the bathroom he knew why he walked to the bathroom. He didn’t know where things were kept. He helped with yard work and he didn’t know where the tools were commonly kept.



Did he often watch the same films over and over?


Oh sure, he could read the same magazines over and over too.



Continue

A Chat with One of the Last Original Swedish Greasers
Raggare are modern-day greasers who are as important to Sweden’s national identity as meatballs, ABBA, and blue-eyed blonds. This is despite the fact that the raggare subculture is all about the appropriation of American cars, rock ’n’ roll, and tough-guy leather jackets. And it’s become so commonplace in Sweden that nobody looks twice when greasy-haired small-towners cruise by blasting oldies while waving the Confederate flag from their classic hot rods (or shitty Volvos if they can’t afford the real thing) on their way to the biggest American car show in the world: the annual Power Big Meet in Västerås. 
Raggare first came on the scene in the 1950s, as Swedish teenagers took inspiration from the American films and music flooding postwar Europe thanks to the Marshall Plan. Sweden had remained neutral in the war, so its industrial infrastructure was left unscathed and its export economy boomed. Suddenly, even working-class youths could afford cars, copies of Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock, and tickets to Rebel Without a Cause. The US became synonymous with hope, dreams, and modernity. 
Still, this was the 50s, and Sweden was very conservative. The raggare—whowere swimming naked, having sex, fighting, and drinking—quickly became a favorite scandalous subject of the tabloids. Naturally, the subculture spread as rebellious youth across Sweden and the rest of the Nordic nations began to fetishize the rough-and-tumble American youth immortalized in the movies of the time. For greasers in the US, having an American car obviously wasn’t that big of a deal. If you managed to get your hands on one in Sweden, however, you were the owner of one of the coolest clubs in town: a living room on wheels equipped with a stereo, a make-out couch, a moonshine-filled trunk, and a dance floor wherever you parked. 
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A Chat with One of the Last Original Swedish Greasers

Raggare are modern-day greasers who are as important to Sweden’s national identity as meatballs, ABBA, and blue-eyed blonds. This is despite the fact that the raggare subculture is all about the appropriation of American cars, rock ’n’ roll, and tough-guy leather jackets. And it’s become so commonplace in Sweden that nobody looks twice when greasy-haired small-towners cruise by blasting oldies while waving the Confederate flag from their classic hot rods (or shitty Volvos if they can’t afford the real thing) on their way to the biggest American car show in the world: the annual Power Big Meet in Västerås. 

Raggare first came on the scene in the 1950s, as Swedish teenagers took inspiration from the American films and music flooding postwar Europe thanks to the Marshall Plan. Sweden had remained neutral in the war, so its industrial infrastructure was left unscathed and its export economy boomed. Suddenly, even working-class youths could afford cars, copies of Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock, and tickets to Rebel Without a Cause. The US became synonymous with hope, dreams, and modernity. 

Still, this was the 50s, and Sweden was very conservative. The raggarewhowere swimming naked, having sex, fighting, and drinking—quickly became a favorite scandalous subject of the tabloids. Naturally, the subculture spread as rebellious youth across Sweden and the rest of the Nordic nations began to fetishize the rough-and-tumble American youth immortalized in the movies of the time. For greasers in the US, having an American car obviously wasn’t that big of a deal. If you managed to get your hands on one in Sweden, however, you were the owner of one of the coolest clubs in town: a living room on wheels equipped with a stereo, a make-out couch, a moonshine-filled trunk, and a dance floor wherever you parked. 

Continue