MIT challenges New York Times over book on famous brain patient

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology brain sciences department and, separately, a group of about 200 neurologists around the world have written letters to the New York Times stating that an extract from the book in the Sunday magazine of the newspaper this week contains important misinterpretations of scientific controversies errors and unfair characterizations of a neuroscientist MIT not innovative research on human memory.

In particular, the extract contains a foot 36 letter exchange-volley between the author and MIT Luke Dittrich Suzanne Corkin in which he says that the key documents of historical experiments were “shredded”. “Most of it is gone, it’s in the trash, was shredded,” Corkin is quoted as saying Dittrich before dying in May, explaining, “there is no place to preserve it.”

The destruction of historical files related to scientific research that would raise eyebrows, but Corkin colleagues say that never happened.

The article continues after the announcement

“We believe that no records were destroyed and, conversely, that Professor Corkin worked in his last days to organize and preserve all records” he said letter Dr. James DiCarlo, head of the Department of brain and cognitive Sciences at MIT, sent the Times on Tuesday. Although Corkin fighting advanced liver cancer, wrote, “instructed his assistant to continue to organize, label, and maintain all records” related to the investigation, and “the records currently remain within our department.”

is very rare that so many prominent to take a newspaper to task for an extract of scientists, especially when they also contact the publisher (Random House). A scientist criticize the Times said he had not thought of that. The scientists also complain that the newspaper did not fact-check the extract, but it is very rare for a paper or magazine to do with an extract, with the publishing house to investigate a manuscript.

the controversy follows the Times ran an excerpt from “Patient HM. a history of memory, madness, and family Secrets”, the official publication date was also on Tuesday. The book is remarkable for connecting Dittrich’s most famous patient’s brain ever studied :. HM, as it is known in the scientific literature (his full name, Henry Molaison, was revealed after his death in 2008)

Experimental surgery in 1953 to treat epilepsy Molaison had removed or destroyed his right and left hippocampus, the right and the left amygdala, and other structures. That left him with no ability to form memories, allowing scientists to make groundbreaking discoveries about how human memory works. The surgeon was the grandfather of Dittrich, and much of the book is a passionate discussion of the moral complexities of surgery.

The extract was concentrated in times Corkin. Although much of the pioneering work on HM was performed by Brenda Milner at McGill University in Montreal, Corkin (graduate student Milner) eventually took over as the chief scientist studying HM, which involved giving memory and other tests.

Dittrich (which could not be reached by STAT after hours) quoted a lengthy exchange with Corkin where it seems almost boastful about the destruction of the leaves key data and other records of their work in HM MIT DiCarlo said he and two colleagues at MIT who investigated the alleged destruction “can not explain why professor Corkin made the statements in the article.” But the hypothesis that there were “tensions” between her and Dittrich “because she had rejected his request to review the medical records and confidential investigation of Mr. Molaison.”

Indeed, according to MIT neuroscientist John Gabrieli “nothing is crushed or destroyed.” Assistant Corkin said, “was instructed strictly to preserve everything.” Although there is no way to definitively say that each document was preserved, Gabrieli said, “there’s a whole room full of those files here.”

An equally incendiary in the book excerpt demand is that Corkin tried to play down the discovery by a scientist who studies the brain of H. M. after death, a previously unknown injury. Virtually all of science constructed from memory loss H. M. argued that it was the result of the surgery that the hippocampus was removed. But neuroanatomista Jacopo Annese, then at the University of California, San Diego, acquired brain of H. M. Corkin since shortly after his death. Flaked thousands of fine and studied in detail in 3-D, the discovery of the lesion in the frontal cortex.

According to “Patient HM” Corkin tried to minimize the importance of the discovery and suppress the publication of the paper reporting that, for fear that the abnormality in a brain region away from the hippocampus supposedly destroyed the source of HM ‘s amnesia – could roil orthodoxy on how human memory work. In the end, Annese she appears as lead author of the article and the frontal lesion was reported prominently.

“Is there,” Gabrieli said. “And in an interview after [the paper’s] publication, it is highlighted.” In an interview in 2014, Corkin said the cause and timing of the frontal injury was unknown, and it was “unclear whether this injury had no consequence for the HM ‘s behavior.” “HM patient” relates Corkin to treat, the notes to Annese, to remove all references to the injury front, saying it did not appear on MRIs when HM was alive, and “any consideration that would be very misleading.”

In a second letter, just over 200 brain scientists, the Times (which could not be reached after business hours STAT) is less detailed. It is signed by some of the great figures of neuroscience, from as far away as New Zealand, including Michael Anderson of the University of Cambridge in England; Randy Buckner of Harvard; Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia; Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco; Eleanor Maguire of University College London; Henry Roediger, University of Washington; Daniel Schacter of Harvard; and Scott Small of Columbia University.

The signatories say they are “disturbed” by an excerpt from the book, saying that describes research Corkin “what we believe are partial and misleading ways.” Any indication that not acting with scientific integrity, they write, is “contrary to everything we have known her as a scientist, colleague and friend.”

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