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See Inside Scientific American Volume 308, Issue 2

A Single Brain Cell Stores a Single Concept

Each concept—each person or thing in our everyday experience—may have a set of corresponding neurons assigned to it

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Once a brilliant Russian Neurosurgeon named Akakhi Akakhievitch had a patient who wanted to forget his overbearing, impossible mother.

Eager to oblige, Akakhievitch opened up the patient's brain and, one by one, ablated several thousand neurons, each of which related to the concept of his mother. When the patient woke up from anesthesia, he had lost all notion of his mother. All memories of her, good and bad, were gone. Jubilant with his success, Akakhievitch turned his attention to the next endeavor—the search for cells linked to the memory of “grandmother.”

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