Scientist who pioneered memory research turning 100

Pioneering neuropsychologist Brenda Milner turns 100. Meera Paleja

Scientist Brenda Milner, who pioneered memory research, is set to turn 100 this Sunday.

Born July 15, 1918, Milner was a pioneering neuropsychologist, making groundbreaking discoveries in the field of human memory.

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“Rita Levi-Montalcini [an Italian neurobiologist] is my role model and she lived to be 103,” Milner pointed out.
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“I’m surprised to find myself at 100 years of age, but I have every intention of continuing for many more.”

The soon-to-be centenarian hails from Manchester, U.K., but moved to Canada in 1944.

She finished her PhD at McGill University under psychologist Donald Hebb in 1952 before accepting a tenured position studying epilepsy patients at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, where she still keeps regular hours.

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Milner’s best-known patient, Henry Molaison, was a 29-year-old Connecticut man who underwent an experimental operation to remove part of his brain to relieve his severe epileptic seizures.

She noted that he was able to draw figures more efficiently over time, even though he couldn’t remember ever practicing the skill as he was unable to remember anything long-term.

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Therapy dogs at the Montreal Neuro

Her discovery proved long-term memory and motor memory were from different parts of the brain.

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Over the years, Milner has received many awards, including the Medal of Honour from the Quebec National Assembly and the Prix Hommage du 50e anniversaire from the Order of psychologists of Quebec.

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She was also inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.

Milner is a fellow of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada, as well as a companion of the Order of Canada.

Though she’s been in Canada now for decades, Milner admits she is still a true Brit at heart.

She says she still loves her ‘football,’ and is planning to spend her birthday watching the World Cup final on Sunday before heading to a party planned in her honour.

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