How valuable something is often only becomes clear when it is lost. This was also the case in 1953 during an operation to which the 27-year-old American Henry Molaison had consented. Parts of his brain from both temples towards the middle of his head were removed. The radical treatment was intended to free the patient from violent epileptic seizures. In fact, his cramps were under control after the procedure.

At the same time, however, Molaison had from then on fallen into a state that could be described as a “persistent present”: he was no longer able to form lasting new memories. He could complete sentences or go to the toilet. But that meant the time frame was exhausted. In his own words: “Every day is alone for itself.” Henry Molaison died in a nursing home in 2008 at the age of 82. He was no longer allowed to live an independent life – he lacked his “episodic memory”.

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