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Wrong Peter Milner?

Dr. Peter Milner

Graduate Student


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Background Information

Employment History

Montreal Neurological Institute


McGill University



Emeritus Psychology Professor
McGill University

Web References (24 Total References)

Peter Milner, then ...

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Peter Milner, then Hebb's graduate student and now a professor emeritus at McGill, was working on another project at the time but remembers seeing the sensory-deprivation rooms and watching subjects in frosted-white goggles being led to the bathroom.His mentor had offered male graduate students $20 a day-excellent pay for the '50s-to stay in small chambers with little more than a bed. In addition to the goggles, they wore gloves and cardboard tubes over the arms to limit their sense of touch.A U-shaped pillow and the hum of an air conditioner masked outside noises."According to his theory, the brain would deteriorate if it didn't have a continuous stream of sensory input," Milner says.

Milner calls this "torture," because unlike Hebb's volunteer subjects, Cameron's were under his control.
"They were sick people," Milner says."They came to him because they had a mental illness and his job was to cure them ...
"Hebb thought it was not only stupid, but rather wicked," Milner adds, "and he was right."
Although the CIA and other agencies may have appropriated Hebb's results-some of which the Canadian government forbid him from publishing-for their own purposes, the professor and his collaborators hadn't set out to perfect an interrogation or torture technique.
Based on the description of Solitary I provided, Milner agrees with that distinction."People are torturing themselves when they're running a race, a marathon or something like that," he says.

When Peter was invited to help ...

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When Peter was invited to help initiate atomic energy research in Canada, the pair were married and sailed North America aboard the zigzagging (to avoid German U-boats) Queen Elizabeth.

In 1950, already doing her PhD at McGill, Milner began studying the epilepsy patients of famed neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI). "I fell in love with the place and the work right away," recalls Milner.
It was during this time Milner met and began her seminal work with H.M., an epilepsy patient in Hartford, Conn. who suffered severe memory impairment following the removal of the medial temporal lobe on both sides of his brain.
Although Milner worked with H.M. over the course of several decades, he never remembered having met her from one day to the next.
Having H.M. complete a series of learning tasks, Milner noticed that the only one in which he made progress through practice (virtually impossible for someone who forgets everything they did five minutes ago) was a simple motor coordination task in which he had to trace a large star while looking in a mirror. H.M. improved his performance steadily over a three-day trial, even though he had no recollection of ever having done it in the first place. The findings lead Milner to speculate that certain motor skills can be developed independently of the medial temporal-lobe system. Milner's breakthrough proved that the brain was not just governed by a solitary memory system, a revolutionary concept in the 1950s.
Milner has been blazing trails over the last 50 years, making her name as one of the most important neuroscientists of the twentieth century. Along with the accolades have come the awards. She's been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences (USA) and the Royal Societies of London and Canada and is a Companion of the Order of Canada, to name but a few of her honours.
All the while, Milner has been carefully socking away the prize money along with her life's savings. "It's funny, because I never had any money. I mean I really never had any money," says Milner.
On Oct. 1, Milner took that "little bit of money" and, in conjunction with the launch of the MNI's ‘Thinking Ahead' Campaign announced the formation of the $1 million Brenda Milner Foundation to support postdoctoral fellowships in cognitive neuroscience at the MNI. "[Postdocs] are in a difficult spot," she says. "It is getting harder and harder to get your first academic position." The gift is perfect Milner, someone who says "I have no children except for my students." Although she no longer conducts as much research as before, it is clear Milner is enthusiastic about teaching and about keeping her hand in the game. "I like to be part of things," she says.

Department of Psychology | McGill University | Montreal Quebec Canada

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Peter Milner Professor Emeritus


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Psychologists James Olds and Peter Milner of McGill University in Montreal inserted fine wire electrodes into the brains of rats to study the effects of electrical stimulation of the reticular formation.

Olds and Milner examined brain tissue from the rats and discovered that they had mistakenly inserted the electrodes near the hypothalamus, and not into the reticular formation.
Olds and Milner concluded that they had discovered a ¡°pleasure center¡± in that region.

Peter Milner, one of Hebb's ...

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Peter Milner, one of Hebb's former graduate students who is now an emeritus psychology professor at McGill, recalled the setup: "It would be a bit more than a meter wide and a couple of meters long, probably enough for a table or something."

Milner further described the subjects' living conditions: "They were given food by human beings, and also when they needed to use the washrooms and things they would be escorted there by other human beings. So they weren't completely alone. He also described the subjects being led to the restroom wearing frosted-over goggles. "They wore goggles and earphones and [there was] some sort of noise, just white noise, from a loudspeaker," he said.

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