The Hall

Brenda Milner 1918-

I came to Canada from England during the Second World War along with my husband. Also a scientist, he had been invited to help with research in Canada. When the war ended, I began my Ph.D. at McGill University. There, I had the opportunity to study epileptic patients with famed neurosurgeon Dr. Wilder Penfield.

In 1955, I studied a patient who suffered from severe epilepsy. To lessen his seizures, doctors had taken the radical step of removing both of his brain's medial temporal lobes. These lobes each contain a hippocampus, which helps the brain to convert short-term memory into long-term memory. Working with this patient, I was surprised to find that he was able to retain certain types of information—improving certain motor skills with practice. My discovery played an important role in advancing our understanding of how learning and memory work. Doctors now understand that several memory systems distributed through various areas of the brain govern different activities.

After my work with this patient, I continued to study and teach. Much of my research has focused on exploring how the brain processes language.

I am often credited with pioneering the field of cognitive neuroscience, and I am proud to have paved the way for modern neuropsychology. At the same time, I hope that my research will benefit others.

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