Month: May, 2022

We’re Shockingly Close To A Cure For Aging

Aging, and the chronic diseases that come with it, is considered just an inevitable part of life. But what if it wasn’t? What if aging itself was a disease – a disease that can be treated? Many scientists are doing just that, and the results are nothing short of shocking. Just how close are we to a cure for aging?


I had a birthday recently, and I’m way past the age where a birthday is something to get excited about. Now it’s just a reminder that your body has decayed one more year.

Yeah, aging is bullshit.

It’s a joke that a lot of comedians have told that once you get past a certain age, doctors just stop trying to fix you.

After a certain point, life is just an endless series of trying to figure out what is causing the random pain today.

And you go to the doctor with that pain and they just kinda give you the shoulders like, I don’t know that’s what happens.

Cool. Thanks guy.

But there are some doctors and researchers doing the opposite. In fact they’re making the argument that aging itself is a disease. And this disease can be treated.

And I think it’s a pretty compelling argument. So today let’s not go quietly into that good night and talk about how we can slow, stop, and maybe even reverse aging.

The Merck Manual defines aging as “a gradual, continuous process of natural change that begins in early adulthood.” And that’s fine. Change is good.

It goes on to say that “bodily functions begin to gradually decline” during a person’s early middle age. Cool.

But people can grow old in several ways:

In 1970, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 71. Fifty years later, it was 77.

And that sounds great… But it’s kind-of not.

Because yeah, we’re living longer, but those extra years are being added at the end of our lives, when we’re at our most decrepit and in the most pain.

In other words, we may be extending our lifespans, we’re not necessarily shoring up our healthspans.

For example, between 2013 and 2015 the number of years lived in poor health in the U.K. was 16 for males and 19 for females.

More people living longer also increases the risk of more people living with dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

And this isn’t just a problem in individual lives, this has societal implications.

These people often need constant care in order to live their daily lives, which may create economic and social burdens for communities, caregivers, and families.
The longer you live also increases the risk of developing other chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

It’s like this constant, expensive whack-a-mole we play in the last 20 or so years of our lives until eventually… one of the moles get us.

But what if we change our thinking on this? What if instead of treating these as different diseases, we start thinking of them as symptoms of a bigger, broader disease? The disease of aging.

o a lot of people that sounds crazy, to call aging a disease because I mean, aging is a natural process, how can that be a disease?

But… cancer is a natural process. Arthritis is a natural process. Most diseases are natural processes and we fight them tooth and nail. So why not aging itself?

It’s funny how aggressively people push back against the idea of life extension and age reversal, people call it unnatural as if there’s anything natural about the way we live these days.

It’s weird to me. Like why wouldn’t you want to live longer and healthier? Why wouldn’t you want to be in less pain? It’s like people have some kind of mortality Stockholm Syndrome or something.

We know that different people age at different rates, and different animals age at different rates. So clearly aging is a malleable process that can be sped up or slowed down. And we’re learning how to do exactly that.

So let’s start by talking about how aging works and I should go ahead and disclose that a lot of what I’ll be talking about here is from the book Lifespan by David Sinclair, he’s a Harvard researcher that focuses on aging and he’s got some pretty unique insights; it’s worth a look.

Right off the bat, there’s no unifying theory about aging. Except for the one that Sinclair professes, which we’ll get to in a moment.

One hypothesis is that DNA damage causes aging. There are also theories about mutations to the DNA or that free radicals contribute to aging.

But many of these theories have kind-of fallen to the wayside over the years. These days aging is usually attributed to a handful of cellular processes, including:

  • Attrition of telomeres
  • Genomic instability from DNA damage
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Senescent cell accumulation
  • Stem cell exhaustion

Researchers work at addressing these aspects as a way to slow down aging, which may mitigate diseases, which could forestall death.

All of this may help us add more healthy years to our lives. But they won’t help us live longer.

For that, we need a singular reason why we age, which brings us back to David Sinclair’s theory, which he calls the Information Theory of aging.

Sinclair writes in the book that there are two types of information in biology:

  • Digital: Based on a finite set of possible values, like DNA
  • Analog: Commonly referred to as the epigenome, which are heritable traits that aren’t transmitted by genetic means

As DNA stores genetic information, a structure called chromatin stores epigenetic information.

It’s this information that guides the assembly of a human being from a fertilized egg.

Another way of putting it, if the genome was a computer, the epigenome would be the software.

He also uses the analogy of a scratched DVD. That over time DVDs accumulate scratches to the point that eventually it doesn’t play anymore. But, that information isn’t lost. It’s still there under the scratches. And if you polish the DVD, which I’ve done many times, it’ll play perfectly again.

The epigenome works the same way. Over time little imperfections build up – scratches if you will – that cause cellular processes to deteriorate, which we experience as aging.

So the question is, how do you “polish” the epigenome? Well it turns out we have some genes that are designed to do exactly that.

They’re called “longevity genes” or “vitality genes,” and they’re tied into our body’s survival circuit. And they go back all the way to the beginning of life on this planet.

Life, it turns out, wants to survive, and times are not always plentiful so during times of stress, these survival genes kick in and help the body repair itself.

When things get tough, they hunker down. When things are easy, they tell our cells to grow and reproduce fast.

One of these longevity genes is called target of rapamycin, in us and other mammals it’s called mammalian target of rapamycin, or mTOR.

When under stress, mTOR sends a signal to help improve survival by boosting DNA repair, reducing inflammation from senescent cells, and by digesting old proteins.

When everything is good, it helps with cell growth by managing the creation of proteins.

So, mTOR – target of rapamycin, keep that one in mind.

Another longevity gene is called AMPK, which stands for adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase. (a beat) That word salad will make sense in just a second.

So to explain AMPK – let’s step back. First of all, the cells get energy in the form of chemical bonds, delivered by the ATP molecule.

Like when you eat something, the digestion process breaks that food down over and over until it gets down to basic molecules that can be used by the cell, well the basic molecule that delivers energy is ATP – adenosine triphosphate.

This is a nucleoside, adenosine, tied to three phosphate groups. So, triphosphate.

Once ATP gets inside the cell, the cell strips two phosphate groups from the molecule, releasing energy in the process, and leaving behind a single phosphate group, turning ATP – adenosine triphosphate, into AMP, adenosine monophosphate.

You got it? You still with me? You good?

So cells require a steady flow of ATP in order to keep functioning. If a cell uses up all its energy from ATP, it then fills up with low-energy AMP molecules.

It then runs out of energy, collapses, and dies. Unless… A new source of energy is found. This is where AMPK comes in.

AMPK essentially is the gene that tells the body to pull energy from stored sources in the body, like fats and sugars.

So, when there are high levels of adenosine monophosphate in the cells, it activates the adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase gene. Word salad explained.

In our youth, we have high levels of activated AMPK, which is why we burn fat so much easier when we’re young. But those levels do drop off as the years go by.

But a side benefit of AMPK activation is that it can slow aging in a couple of ways, by reducing oxidative damage, and protecting against senescence.

Senescent cells by the way are kind-of zombie cells. They’re alive… but not functional. They basically just pump out a bunch of inflammatory signals that causes all kinds of problems.

But AMPK activation can clear those senescent cells out through a process called autophagy.

So, AMPK burns fat and kills zombies. So how do you turn on AMPK and become a sexy zombie hunter? One way is through calorie restriction.

Eating less – seems pretty obvious but if you don’t feel like starving yourself, there’s also a pill you can take.

Metformin is a drug that is used to help treat type 2 diabetes but also activates AMPK. It basically mimics some benefits of calorie restriction without decreasing caloric intake.

Also, it can help improve physical performance, increase sensitivity to insulin, and reduce cholesterol levels. And the best part – it’s super cheap. But you do need a prescription in the US.

One last longevity pathway are a family of enzymes called sirtuins. There are 7 of these, SIRT1 through SIRT7.

These play a major role in cell survival and metabolism, and DNA repair.

If you’ve heard of NAD supplements lately, this is what those are for, sirtuins are dependent on that.

They can also be activated by low-calorie or low-amino-acid diets or exercise.

mTOR, AMPK, and sirtuins are three longevity pathways, according to Sinclair. They were evolved to help protect the body during times of stress by activating survival mechanisms.

And once activated, “organisms become healthier, disease resistant, and longer lived,” Sinclair wrote.

So basically the key to longevity, according to this theory, is for the body to be in a state of stress. I know that sounds fun. But there are some ways of doing that.

The first is through intermittent fasting.

If you want to activate that AMPK gene, you’ve gotta make your cells hungry. And that means not eating. Sometimes.

There are several types of intermittent fasting.

For example, the 16:8 diet (Jason note: This is the one I do.) has you fast for 16 hours and eat within an eight-hour window. For some people that means you start eating at noon and stop eating at 8:00. When I do it I usually go from 2 to 10. Because I stay up late.

The 5:2 diet has you eat 75 percent fewer calories for two days a week.

Whichever one works for you, studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help lower blood pressure, reduce body fat, and decrease weight.

Though in the interest of balance, there have been some studies that show it’s not as effective for weight loss. But, for the anti-aging properties, studies show some pretty compelling results.

Another way to switch on sirtuins is through cold temperatures.

Cold temperatures activate brown fat, or brown adipose tissue.

This is a type of fatty tissue that has more mitochondria than regular fat, and it helps maintain body temperature in cold conditions. And a side benefit is that it helps in DNA repair because again, your body is in stress.

This is why a lot of people advocate for cold showers which I’ll just come out and say it, that’s a nope for me dawg.

I’ve tried it and…. no.

Although it’s mostly carried in our backs and shoulders so if you can lay on an ice pack or a cold pad, that’s supposed to produce some effect anyway.

And then there’s exercise. Yeah, I know, it always comes back to exercise.

Not only does exercise help with blood flow, heart and lung health, and mental health, it can help preserve longer telomeres, those things at the end of chromosomes that help protect them from damage.

Thing is, you don’t have to exercise for a long time to reap its benefits.

One study showed that with just 15 minutes of exercise a day, a person can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 45 percent.

They say the goal is to exercise to the point that you’re breathing hard enough that it would be difficult to talk. If you can just do that for 10-15 minutes a day, that’s enough to make a difference.

But you might be saying, “10-15 minutes! That’s like my whole day, can’t I just take a pill?”

Yes, there are some pills that you can take but before I go any further, this is where I have to point out that I am not a doctor, and what I’m telling you is not medical advice. But these are some of the supplements and pills that are being studied.

You’re in luck because research is being conducted into things like nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) and resveratrol to determine their effects on longevity.

First, a reminder that I’m not a doctor, and what I’m telling you is not medical advice.

The first is NMN, or nicotinamide mononucleotide.

NMN is a precursor of NAD+ so when you take an NMN supplement, your body breaks it down into NAD+.

As I mentioned earlier, NAD+ is central to metabolism and is associated with things like downregulation of energy production in mitochondria, inflammatory conditions, and oxidative stress. And its level decreases with aging.
You might have also heard of Resveratrol lately. This is a compound found in several plants, like peanuts, berry fruits, and grapes.

It’s known for being associated with various health benefits, like:

  • Antidiabetic
  • Anti-obesity
  • Antioxidants
  • Glucose metabolism

Other medicines and supplements that show promise in extending lifespans are the aforementioned metformin and rapamycin.

Rapamycin is interesting actually because it was first discovered on a bacterium in Easter Island – the island with the big stone heads on it. And that’s how it got its name the Polynesian name for Easter Island is Rapa Nui.

And for years it was used as an immunosuppressant for transplant patients until some studies showed that it had anti-aging properties.

You might remember that mTOR gene that triggers DNA repair earlier, well mTOR stands for mammalian target of rapamycin. That’s how they found this gene.

So rapamycin can trigger DNA repair and improve longevity, there have been some amazing studies in mice with this actually.

Though I should also say that as an immunosuppressant, it can have some undesirable side effects so be especially careful with this one.

Research is ongoing, but all or any of these things might just give you some extra years of life. Years that might get you closer to some real crazy stuff.

Because if we have these genes that can trigger DNA repair and other life-extending processes… and we have the ability to edit our genes… maybe someday we can just turn those processes on at will.

One of the wilder ideas in Sinclair’s book is that we could edit our genes to have an age-reversal trigger. One that gets turned on when we take a simple antibiotic.

So we could create this edited gene, spread it throughout our bodies with a viral vector, and then at various times in our lives, as age-related issues start to crop up, we can go on that antibiotic. That age-reversal trigger kicks in and we just… age backward for a few months.

We get more energy, our joints get stronger, skin gets more supple, hair gets it color back, and when we’re at the biological age we prefer, we stop taking the antibiotic, start aging normally again.

This is apparently something they’re already doing in mice.

And of course, if you really want to cheat death, there’s always cryonics, which I’ve done a whole video on before.

Now we’re really nowhere near being able to restart bodies that have been frozen in liquid nitrogen and if we’re being honest, the chance that it could ever work is low. But in 2019, scientists did put a human being in suspended animation for the first time.

This happened at the University of Maryland and the process involved rapidly cooling the brain to less than 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) by replacing a patient’s blood with an ice-cold saline solution.
This gave surgeons some extra time to perform surgery on a patient who had lost half of his blood. He was essentially dead for a while, his brain and heart went silent. But they brought him back to life.

The boundary between life and death has been shifting for hundreds of years now. And now we can actually put people in suspended animation. It’s only for short periods right now but give it another 30 or 50 years… (shrug)

The bottom line is, aging research is still in its infancy. It’s actually remarkable that we know what we do considering how few researchers around the world are studying this. But that’s changing really fast.

We’re about to see an explosion of aging related research. Because as I mentioned at the beginning of this video, we have to change our mindset on aging from being just a thing that’s bound to happen to a disease that we can treat.

And in January of this year a major step was taken in that direction when the World Health Organization’s 11th International Classification of Disease (ICD) revision went into effect.

The ICD is an international standard for clinical diagnosis, epidemiology, and health management in developed nations. They basically assign a code for every disease.

Having a disease recognized with a code by the ICD basically legitimizes it in the eyes of the research world, it allows for drugs targeting that disease to be clinically evaluated and approved.

And the newest addition of the ICD includes for the first time an extension code for “aging-related” diseases.

This means more money for research and just as important, for insurance companies to provide coverage for therapies targeting that disease.

So hey, everybody says I’ve been too doomy and gloomy on this channel lately well how about this, we are about to see massive advancements in life extension over the next 20 years.

You might not live forever. But it might be a lot longer than you think.

So I’ll leave you with one last thought and let you guys debate it in the comments. I’m sure many of you have already started listing all the reasons why it would be terrible if people lived longer. I mean, other people, not you.

The overpopulation problem, the world can’t sustain that many people, economic and labor problems if people never retire, all interesting points and there are counterpoints to all of them, but I just want to ask one thing.

How much differently would people act if they really had to deal with the consequences of their lifestyles?

I’ve heard many a person poo-pooh climate change saying, “oh the worst of it will happen long after I’m dead.” And the same attitude goes for other things, I’m just using climate change as an example.

But what if we did have to live with it? What if instead of thinking about things affecting future generations, we know it would affect us in our own lifetimes? Would we behave differently? And could that produce a better society? I’m curious what you think. Let me know down in the comments.

This Man Just Woke From The Dead. Sort-of.

Clive Wearing lives life 7 seconds at a time. That’s because he has both retrograde and anterograde amnesia, which means he has no ability to form new memories and remembers nothing of his life before. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to live like this, but his condition teaches us a lot about how we form memories and how the structure of the brain structures our lives.

In a neurological institution in the UK, lives a man named Clive Wearing. Clive is 83 years old, and actually he’ll be turning 84 two days after this video comes out. Thing is, he doesn’t know this. In fact he probably thinks he’s still in his 40s.
And chances are, less than a minute after he blows out his candles, he will have forgotten it completely. He’ll have no idea it’s his birthday, or even how old he is.
This might sound like the kind of dementia that one might expect from a person of that age, which is sad but inevitable, but Clive Wearing has been like this for over 40 years, and his memory issues go far beyond normal and expected.

In fact, there’s nobody else in the world that’s quite like him.

That’s because Clive has two different forms of amnesia. Chronic anterograde and chronic retrograde amnesia.

  • Anterograde amnesia (meaning he can’t create new memories)
  • Retrograde amnesia (meaning he’s lost many of his memories)
When combined this means Clive is unable form any new memories, and can barely remember anything about his life before he developed amnesia.
So Clive just kinda… exists. He lives his life on an endless loop, 30 seconds at a time, never knowing exactly what just happened or where he’s going.
It’s kind-of impossible to even imagine what this must be like. Our continuity of consciousness is pretty much what defines our experience of life. Clive describes it as feeling like he’s constantly waking up.
In fact, he keeps a journal that is just filled from top to bottom with him proclaiming “I am now awake,” or “I live” with a lot of the earlier entries crossed out because when he sees them, he doesn’t believe that he wrote them, even though they are in his handwriting.
Also, and this kinda heartbreaking, but Clive is married. And every time he sees his wife, he rushes to hug her like he hasn’t seen  her in years.
Deborah Wearing actually wrote a book about their experience called Forever Today: A True Story of Lost Memory and Never-Ending Love,
where she described his experience like this:
Yeah, this is where it gets kinda creepy. He often describes it as having been dead.
He lives in a beam of light with darkness ahead and behind him.
It’s creepy to think about, but Clive’s situation opens up a lot of questions about how memory works in the brain and what it means for our conscious experience.
For example, he’ll claim he doesn’t even know what coffee tastes like, even though he drinks coffee every day. If you ask him where the coffee is, he can’t tell you, but once he’s in the kitchen, he’s perfectly able to make a cup for himself.
Meaning he knows where the coffee is, the cups, the spoons, the sugar, the cream, all that, and he knows how to prepare it… but when he’s sitting in front of the TV, he’ll tell you he has no idea where all that stuff is and doesn’t even know what coffee tastes like.
Today Clive lives under constant care and observation because literally if he were to leave the house, he would have no way of getting back home.
Normal activities like reading a book or watching a movie are out of the question because he would constantly be forgetting the previous scene or the page he just read.
Actually the only entertainment he seems capable of enjoying are sports like cricket or rugby because the action takes place in short segments that are short enough that he can process them.
And this can be very frustrating for Clive because obviously, he wasn’t always like this.
Before the amnesia, he was a kind-of a world-renowned musician, he was a highly respected guy, so in general in conversations he sticks to just a few subjects that he can talk intelligently on.
And he does talk. In fact, chattering on endlessly is kind-of a way for him to remain grounded.
He will sometimes speak about WWll and hiding in air raid shelters as a young boy or talking about the choir at Cambridge.
He also can draw on a slurry of topics that interest him or of which he knows something about. Which makes it so that, if you’re just meeting him, he seems pretty normal.
But in about 15 minutes when you notice he’s said the same thing 3 times in a row… He doesn’t seem so normal.
He also jokes a lot. Kind-of compulsively. It’s actually a condition called Witzelsucht , (vitzul-shoot) which when you have a German condition you know it’s bad news.
Looking at you Munchausen Syndrome.
But no, actually Witzelsucht is known as joking disease, and it’s likely a consequence of his frontal-lobe weakening as he ages.
Clive’s condition is very remarkable and unique to only him. And that begs the question. Just how did this happen?
HERPES! Literally just your basic, run-of-the-mill herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1).
Which is funny… but also horrifying.
Horrifying because a LOT of people have herpes. It’s one of the oldest viruses on the planet, in fact there is a herpes virus for every type of primate there is.
And for most people the worst symptom is cold sores on their lips. If you’re unlucky, you might get sores on your genitals.
But for Clive, somehow the virus crossed the blood brain barrier and attacked his hippocampus. Even unluckier, the doctors couldn’t figure out what the illness was and treated him for the flu.
It was only after he was completely unresponsive that they were able to figure out the actual problem. By that time the damage had been done.
he hippocampus, as you’ve probably already guessed, plays an important part in the memory equation, it kinda transfers memories from short-term to long-term storage.
But of course it’s more complicated than that because as I mentioned earlier, he knows how to make coffee, and where all the coffee stuff is kept, even if he can’t explain it verbally.
So long-term memory is broken up into explicit and implicit memory. You can describe explicit memory as declarative, things that can be consciously described. Implicit memory are non-declarative, things that are more felt and intuitive.
And these can be broken down further, for example there are two types of explicit memories,
  • Episodic (experienced events) Ex: Recalling unique memories of your life
  • Semantic (knowledge and concepts) Ex: Knowing state capitals and dates of things.
On the other side, Implicit memories can be:
  • Procedural (skills and actions) Remembering how to do things like play music or shuffle cards well
  • Emotional conditioning (feelings) Memories which evoke emotion.
And all of this gets confusing with Clive’s condition because some of this he has and some of this he doesn’t.
Like the coffee thing from earlier, that’s Implicit Prodedural memory. He understands that at a subconscious, instinctual level, but if he were to try to recall a specific memory of him doing that in the past… which would be Explicit Episodic memory, he can’t.
You get what I’m saying here?
And sometimes it’s hard to pin down the truth, like he claims to have a vague memory of hiding in bomb shelters during World War 2, which would be Explicit Episodic, but it might just be that he knows the fact that people sheltered from bombs in World War 2, that would be more Explicit Semantic.
But to me the most interesting thing he was able to retain was his ability to play music.
So I mentioned he was a respected musician earlier, well that’s kind-of an understatement.
He was considered like the world’s foremost expert on this late renaissance composer named Orlande de Lassus.
And yes, you’re right, that is a very specific thing to be an expert in, now meet me at camera…
Two… because that’s what makes a person really interesting.
Hey you want to be an interesting person? Or at least convince other people that you’re interesting? It’s really simple. Just become the world’s foremost expert on the most specific, weird, obscure thing you can think of.
Nothing is more interesting to me than to meet someone who has spend a significant amount of their lifetimes obsessing over the tiniest detail of something that I’ve never heard of.
Where you’re just like, “Wow, really?”
Like it makes me wonder what it is about this thing that they’re so passionate about, there must be something there I can’t see.
That is the definition of interest.
Now find your weird thing and nerd the hell out on it.
Sorry, what were we…?
Orlande de Lassus, right, Clive was the world’s expert on his music, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of his work.
He actually ran The London Lassus Ensemble, and led the 1982 London Lassus Festival, which celebrated his 450th birthday.
Right, Clive was a supernerd.
Today, Clive has absolutely no memory of any of it.
But the question is, can he still play music? I did a video a while back about how music hacks the brain, it does hold a strange and deep connection in our minds.
Could his musical ability survive all that memory loss?
Yes, he can still rip up a piano just like he used to.
He can both read music and perform music from memory. And you might think that it would be shocking to sit down at a piano, thinking you don’t know how to play, and then suddenly this virtuoso music comes pouring out of you. But for Clive, he just kinda slips into it. As soon as he starts pressing keys, he’s himself again, lost in the movement, and everything is what it should be.
That sounds nice. But for Clive the real shock is after when his brain resets.
In fact he would kinda convulse and burp and lose control over himself. It’s like his body reacting to being sucked back into the void where he thinks he’s just woken up for the first time ever.
Doctors ascribe his seizure-like shakes to damage in his inferior frontal lobe.
It’s like when his brain sends a signal to activate an emotion, it creates a near epileptic event.
What’s also interesting about his playing music is that he improvises. So it’s not like his brain is acting like an old victrola playing the same thing over and over, Clive’s still in there.
So yeah, once again, music is weirdly intertwined with our identity and sense of self.
It’s really hard to imagine exactly what it’s like to live like Clive.
Part of it sounds hellish. But then again, that hell is forgotten 10 seconds later.
It’s also hard to imagine being in a relationship with someone like that. After years of caring for him full time, Deborah had to finally distance herself from Clive, just visiting him every other week or so.
And she would say that she felt a lot of guilt about that for a while, but… he didn’t. He wasn’t missing her when she was gone, when she wasn’t there, he had no idea she existed.
I should point out that he had no memory of their relationship, but when he saw her, he knew she was his wife. Again, he retained that implicit knowledge but had no episodic memory of it. It’s super interesting.


And while I say that Clive has a condition that is totally unique to him, there are other cases of amnesia that are all just as interesting.
Henry Molaison, who came to be known as HM, cracked his skull in an accident when he was a young boy in 1953.
This led to epileptic seizures that continued to get worse and worse throughout his life, eventually becoming debilitating.
Eventually this led him to one of the top neurosurgeons at the time, a guy named W.B. Scoville, and his suggestion was to remove the hippocampus.
The hippocampus and while they’re at it the parahippocampal cortices, entorhinal cortices, piriform cortices, and amygdalae.
It was the world’s first surgery performed with an ice cream scooper.
But it worked. H.M.’s seizures went away, but of course as we just learned with Clive, a hippocampus is a terrible thing to waste.
This is your brain. This is your brain without a hippocampus. Any questions?
So yeah from that point forward H.M. was unable to form new memories. And he struggled to remember anything in the couple of years before he had the surgery.
He was diagnosed as having temporally graded amnesia.
One more weird thing, when H.M. died in 2008, he donated his body to science and researchers sliced up his brain as thinly as possible and scanned it into a 3D virtual environment, which you can see today at


Another story is Kent Cochrane, who suffered a severe motorcycle accident that caused brain damage and gave him temporally graded retrograde amnesia.
Cochrane had his semantic memory intact; he could tell you the Capital of Vermont was Montpilliar but couldn’t tell you what he had for dinner the previous day.
Cochrane’s accident happened in 1986 and at that point CT scans were available, so scientists for the first time got to document a damaged brain at that level.
Researchers working with him were able to learn some new things about episodic and semantic memory but also the distinction between implicit and explicit memory, and how people learn new things in amnesia.
In one experiment, neuro researchers presented Cochrane with a list of words. A year later, they showed him the words with letters missing and he was able to fill in the letters while not knowing what the words really were.
In other words the info was getting into his mind through a different process, and found a different retrieval process was different as well.
This challenged the previous opinion that patients with anterograde amnesia are incapable of adding information to their declarative memory. In short, people with amnesia can indeed learn new things.


Then there’s the case of Scott Bolzan which I don’t want to spend too much time on but his case is interesting.
He was a professional football player in the 80s and had his share of concussions because this was way before the helmet to helmet rule.
But his story is he slipped on the bathroom floor and hit his head. And he got the kind of amnesia you always see in the movies, where he forgot his entire life up until the fall, but could make new memories after that.
But what’s weird in his case is he lost the procedural memory and implicit stuff, like he didn’t know what a job was, or the ritual of Halloween, or what a wife is.
Normally amnesia patients retain that procedural memory. So there are some people who think that he’s faking it?
At least Dr. William Barr thinks so, describing his symptoms as “Hollywood amnesia” and suggests he’s doing it to sell a book or get out of some debts.
He would also say, “Not knowing what a TV is, not knowing what a cellphone is, this is all inconsistent with any known form of brain damage.”
But back to Clive, reading about his situation really makes you think about our experience of life, and how the structure of our brain contributes to that.
Because one one level, we’re all going through life exactly like Clive is. Just one moment at a time.
We all have these two memory systems, short term and long-term. And short-term, immediate, real-time system is always running, that’s our present moment, what’s right in front of us. It’s the current block you’re on as you’re walking across town.
But that present moment is informed by our memory of the block we just passed and we know what’s up ahead because we walked there yesterday, those long-term memories provide the context that create this feeling of a continuation of our consciousness.
And when our short-term system resets, it’s supported by this other memory system, so it doesn’t feel like a reset but that system does still reset.
We’re just ridin’ a skateboard on a beam of light through fabric of space and time bud…
If I may end on a sweet note, one thing about this story that gets me is the way he responds when he sees his wife. Every single time, even if she just left the room for 10 minutes, he runs to her and holds on to her like he hasn’t seen her in years, he’s just overcome with emotion.
Which is sweet… but… I mean I get why she had to get away from it after a while.
Like I said before, he doesn’t remember his relationship with her, all he knows is that he loves her with all his heart. Which kinda says something about how deep down the emotion of love is.
I actually think Clive said it best when Deborah asked him, “What does love mean?” And to that Clive responded, “In tennis nothing, in life everything.”
And to that I say, Good show, old chap. (a beat) And happy birthday.

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