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0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Luke Dittrich Narrator: George Newbern Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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For readers of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks comes a propulsive, haunting journey into the secret history of brain science by Luke Dittrich, whose grandfather performed the surgery that created the most studied human research subject of all time: the amnesic known as Patient H. M.

In 1953, a twenty-seven-year-old factory worker named Henry Molaison—who suffered from severe epilepsy—received a radical new version of the then-common lobotomy, targeting the most mysterious structures in the brain. The operation failed to eliminate Henry’s seizures, but it did have an unintended effect: Henry was left profoundly amnesic, unable to create long-term memories. Over the next sixty years, Patient H. M., as Henry was known, became the most studied individual in the history of neuroscience, a human guinea pig who would teach us much of what we know about memory today.

Patient H.M. is, at times, a deeply personal journey. Dittrich’s grandfather was the brilliant, morally complex surgeon who operated on Molaison—and thousands of other patients. The author’s investigation into the dark roots of modern memory science ultimately forces him to confront unsettling secrets in his own family history, and to reveal the tragedy that fueled his grandfather’s relentless experimentation—experimentation that would revolutionize our understanding of ourselves.

Dittrich uses the case of Patient H. M. as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey, one that moves from the first recorded brain surgeries in ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge laboratories of MIT. He takes readers inside the old asylums and operating theaters where psychosurgeons, as they called themselves, conducted their human experiments and behind the scenes of a bitter custody battle over the ownership of the most important brain in the world.

Patient H. M. combines the best of biography, memoir, and science journalism to create a haunting, endlessly fascinating story, one that reveals the wondrous and devastating things that can happen when hubris, ambition, and human imperfection collide.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An exciting, artful blend of family and medical history.”

    New York Times

  • “In prose both elegant and intimate, and often thrilling, Patient H.M. is an important book about the wages not of sin but of science…A scintillating book, infused with humanity.”

    Washington Post

  • “Dittrich looks critically at the actual process of scientific investigation.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Astonishingly insightful…A fascinating story in its own right to anyone interested in the history of modern science’s attempts to understand the causes of mental illness along with the many botched attempts to treat it.”

    Psychology Today

  • “Raises entirely new questions about the way in which the research on H.M. was conducted—and about the conclusions that have long been incorporated into our understanding of memory.”

    New York magazine

  • “[A] courageous mix of scientific investigation and memoir… woven around the history of neurosurgery…[A] breathtaking work.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Oliver Sacks meets Stephen King in a piercing study of one of psychiatric medicine’s darker hours…A mesmerizing, maddening story and a model of journalistic investigation.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • "[A] fascinating medical detective story.”


  • “Combining memoir, biography, and science writing, Dittrich has written a fascinating and at times deeply disturbing account of the history of psychosurgery that’s accessible to the layperson.”

    Library Journal

  • “Newbern’s delivery is warm but unhurried and seems untroubled by the medical, psychological, and scientific terminology.”


  • A BookPage Top Pick for August 2016
  • A Kirkus Reviews Pick of Best Nonfiction of 2016
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