Amygdalohippocampectomy, that’s a million dollar word, is it not? It is not likely the average person hears this word and thinks anything other than “Sounds like too much to think about.” Well, it’s actually not as difficult to understand as some may think, and it is possible to even make learning about it interesting! For the sake of straining the brain, it can be called something else besides “amygdalohippocampectomy”. How about AH for short? By scientific definition, AH is a surgical procedure which involves the removal of the hippocampus and the amygdala; important parts of the human brain.
The average person probably was not aware they could survive without a piece of their brain! Well, they can, and it is often used to help sufferers of epilepsy and has a pretty high success rate. To recognize how amazing this procedure is, it is important to understand what each of these parts does. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that is responsible for memory, some emotions, and motivation. The amygdala is largely responsible for emotional behavior and some motivational responses. So, a person who lives without these important parts would probably be a bit different, right? It is proven that some people who go through this surgery often encounter severe memory problems later in life.
In fact, in 1994 doctors describe a patient who was born with an extremely rare genetic condition known as Urbach-Wiethe disease. This disease caused the patient to suffer complete bilateral amygdala destruction since late childhood. This is significant because, due to this disease, the patient is completely and totally incapable of experiencing the emotion of fear. Why this disease only affects her ability to feel fear is unknown, but is incredibly interesting, to say the least. Since her discovery, scientists have begun to study the amygdala and hippocampus more meticulously.
There is controversy as to whether or not the AH procedure is ethical. Some believe that the removal of two important emotional and memory organs is hazardous, as well as unethical. This is understandable, because what might happen if a person were to lose the ability to love due to this procedure? It could result in the person developing sociopathic attributes. This is largely due to the public being ill-informed of how the procedure works. It may be difficult for the average person to comprehend how much good this procedure does, both for the patient and for the scientific community.
It will be many years before the human brain is totally understood, but thanks to procedures like the amygdalohippocampectomy and the continuously-growing neuroscience community, the human race is incontrovertibly one step closer to understanding the motor of thought and life, the brain.