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Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=single-brain-cell-stores-single-concept

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.”

Is it true?

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This is interesting... But how would he know what neurons would be correlated to the mother vs other things? –  Cruril Jan 15 '13 at 21:52
    
@Cruril, I'm wondering the same thing. However it is difficult to say, maybe he known the patient's mother. –  Carlo_R. Jan 15 '13 at 21:59
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This is a teaser to a paywalled article. There's a risk here that the body of the article actually gives appropriate context to this tall story. Have you purchased the article and checked further? –  Oddthinking Jan 15 '13 at 23:47
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The name "Akakhi Akakhievitch" practically screams "this story is fictional" to any Russian language speaker :) –  Kreiri Jan 16 '13 at 8:19
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Akaky Akakievich is a protagonist of Gogol's short story The Overcoat. Name is widely used to show comical or fictional characters (putting aside the direct references to Gogol) –  default locale Jan 17 '13 at 4:29
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1 Answer

up vote 10 down vote accepted

http://www.princeton.edu/~cggross/Neuroscientist_10_02.pdf says that it's fictional, a tall tale: told by Jerry Letvin in 1969 as part of an M.I.T. course he gave.

The patient in the story was called Portnoy, whose Complaint was about his mother.

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