Suzanne Corkin, who studied Henry Molaison — a patient with almost no memory — for more than 50 years, tells Terry Gross about the signs of Molaison’s intelligence:
We gave him IQ tests. In fact, he had an IQ test the day before his operation. A psychologist at the Hartford hospital had tested him. After his operation his IQ actually went up, which isn’t a surprise because he wasn’t having as many seizures. So we monitored his IQ over the years. We wanted to know that he maintained a particular level of intellectual ability. Aside from that, just talking to him in every day life, you knew you were talking to an intelligent person. Evidence of this is that he would spontaneously come up with very funny jokes. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and he would come up with little quips that were appropriate to a specific moment, nothing that he had made up before, rehearsed, or he knew from his preoperative life.
One day a post-doctoral fellow in my lab was testing Henry at the MIT clinical research center, they walked out of the testing room and the door slammed, and [one fellow] said, ‘Oh, I think I’ve left my keys inside.’ And Henry said, ‘Well at least you’ll know where to find them.’ One of his favorite past times was doing crossword puzzles. He always had one at arm’s reach, and a pencil, and so I said, ‘Henry, you are the puzzle king of the world,’ and he said, ‘I’m puzzling.’
Corkin is the author of the new book Permanent Present Tense, about her years and work with Molaison.
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