Big Picture: ‘H.M.’ and procedural memory

Words by artist Kerry Tribe, for a Wellcome Collection installation.

Using two synchronised projectors to play two parts of a film with a 20-second delay, ‘H.M.’ reflects the experience of a patient whose case radically advanced our understanding of memory.

I worked closely with Suzanne Corkin, Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at MIT, throughout the development of my project. Sue herself worked closely with Patient H.M. from the 1960s on and has published many papers about him. She was hugely helpful, providing transcripts and allowing me to film the actual machines that were used to test H.M.’s procedural memory (these appear in the film at various times.) She also provided the first-person female voiceover to the film, talking about the science of memory and the unusual coincidence of growing up across the street from the neurosurgeon who performed the procedure that resulted in H.M.’s amnesia.

The installation runs from 26 April to 4 July at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road in London. See our preview and review, and find out more on the Wellcome Collection site

Read more on H.M.

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