Those Dumb Artists! Amnesiacs, Artists, and Other Idiots

In Matthew L. Camilleri (ed.), Structural Analysis. Hauppauge NY: Nova Science Publishers. pp. 240 (2010)
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Henry Molaison, aged eighty-two, died at the end of 2008, and just after noon on exactly the first anniversary of his death, December 2, 2009, scientists began slicing his brain into 2,500 tissue samples. Known primarily in his lifetime as only H.M., he left his brain to science so that it could be dissected and digitally mapped – a gift much beloved by many scientists. An amnesiac in life, H.M. first rose to prominence in 1962 when Dr. Brenda Milner, a pioneer in the field of neuropsychology, demonstrated that though H.M. was severely amnesic and could not remember past activities, he could nevertheless learn certain habits. The experiment involved the now famous mirror drawing. This article, written by a philosopher/artist and a neuroscientist/neuroaesthetician, argues that artists are unable to verbally articulate thoughts about their own art practice for reasons similar to why H.M. could not. All memories are not stored in the same part of the brain. Different categories of memories i.e., semantic memory or procedural memory, are stored in different parts of the brain. We argue that the procedural memory is not readily accessible to semantic memory.

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Dena Shottenkirk
Brooklyn College (CUNY)


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