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Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by [Lisa Genova]

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Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 1,056 ratings

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“No one writes more brilliantly about the connections between the brain, the mind, and the heart. Remember is a beautiful, fascinating, and important book about the mysteries of human memory—what it is, how it works, and what happens when it is stolen from us. A scientific and literary treat that you will not soon forget.”—Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, New YorkTimes bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness

“In
Remember, Lisa Genova provides easy-to-follow, no nonsense advice on how to maximize one of the greatest outputs of your brain—memory. But, more important, she also lets us know that while memory is a tremendous gift, the real you is much more than just what you can remember!”—Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD, professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School, coauthor of The Healing Self
 
“As with her previous books, this is an engaging and edifying read.”
—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of How the Mind Works

“Genova’s plentiful anecdotes from her personal and professional lives make it easy for readers to relate, and her obvious expertise in memory and the brain results in a book that is more insightful than many others on the subject. Sharp writing and accessible storytelling make for a compelling read.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Brain science is deciphering the mysteries of memory, and no one is better positioned to tell the electrifying story than Dr. Genova, with her scientist’s eye and poet’s ear. A book you won’t forget.”
—David Eagleman, neuroscientist, Stanford University, New York Times bestselling author

“This user-friendly account is very informative and should encourage and comfort concerned readers.”
Booklist

“A solid primer on the way memory works and fails to work.…Genova blends popular science and self-help, providing lay reader-friendly descriptions of the function of memory and sharing tips for better memory in a helpful appendix. . . . This accessible survey is an easy entry point for anyone wondering how and why they keep forgetting where they left their car keys.”
Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

Making Memories 101

When Akira Haraguchi, a retired engineer from Japan, was sixty-nine years old—an age most of us associate with senior discounts and a less-than-optimal memory—he memorized pi, a nonrepeating, infinite number with no pattern, to 111,700 digits. That’s the number 3.14159 . . . ​carried out to 111,695 more decimal places. From memory! If this sounds completely mind-blowing, I’m with you. Surely, you’re thinking, Haraguchi must have been a child prodigy. Or perhaps he’s a mathematical genius or a savant. He’s none of these. He’s a regular guy with a healthy, aging brain, which means something maybe even more mind-blowing—your brain is also capable of memorizing 111,700 digits of pi.

We can learn and remember anything—the unique sound of your child’s voice, the face of a new friend, where you parked your car, that time you walked to the market all by yourself to buy sour cream when you were four years old, the words to the latest Taylor Swift song. The average adult has memorized the sound, spelling, and meaning of 20,000 to 100,000 words. Chess masters have memorized in the ballpark of 100,000 possible moves. Concert pianists who can play Rachmaninoff’s third concerto have committed the coordination of almost 30,000 notes to memory. And these same folks don’t need the sheet music to play Bach, Chopin, or Schumann, either.

Our memories can hold information that is deeply meaningful or nonsensical, simple or complex, and its capacity appears to be limitless. We can ask it to remember anything. And under the right conditions, it will.

How can memory do all of this? Neurologically speaking, what even is a memory? How is a memory made? Where are memories stored? And how do we retrieve them?

Making a memory literally changes your brain. Every memory you have is a result of a lasting physical alteration in your brain in response to what you experienced. You went from not knowing something to knowing something, from never before having experienced today to having lived another day. And to be able to remember tomorrow what happened today means that your brain has to change.

How does it change? First, the sensory, emotional, and factual elements of what you experience are perceived through the portals of your senses. You see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.

Let’s say it’s the first evening of summer, and you’re at your favorite beach with your best friends and their families. You see, among other things, your children playing soccer on the beach and a spectacular sunset glowing in the sky. You hear “Born This Way,” one of your favorite Lady Gaga songs, playing over a portable speaker. Your daughter runs up to you, wailing, pointing to her bright pink ankle. A jellyfish has just stung her. Luckily, your friend carries a small container of meat tenderizer with her for this very scenario. You make a paste of the tenderizer and rub it on the sting, relieving your daughter’s pain almost instantly (this really works). You smell the salty ocean air and smoke from the bonfire. You taste crisp, cold white wine, fresh briny oysters, and gooey sweet s’mores. You feel happy.

The sight of your children playing soccer has nothing to do with Lady Gaga or jellyfish or the taste of oysters, unless these fleeting, separate experiences become linked. To become a memory that you can later recall—Remember that first night of summer, when we ate oysters and s’mores and listened to Lady Gaga while the kids played soccer on the beach and little Susie Q was stung by a jellyfish?—all that previously unrelated neural activity becomes a connected pattern of neural activity. This pattern then persists through structural changes created between those neurons. The lasting change in neural architecture and connectivity can later be reexperienced—or remembered—through the activation of this now-linked neural circuit. This is memory.

Creating a memory takes place in four basic steps: Encoding. Your brain captures the sights, sounds, information, emotion, and meaning of what you perceived and paid attention to and translates all this into neurological language. Consolidation. Your brain links the previously unrelated collection of neural activity into a single pattern of associated connections. Storage. This pattern of activity is maintained over time through persistent structural and chemical changes in those neurons. Retrieval. You can now, through the activation of these associated connections, revisit, recall, know, and recognize what you learned and experienced.

All four steps have to work for you to create a long-term memory that can be consciously retrieved. You have to put the information into your brain. You have to weave the information together. You have to store that woven information via stable changes in your brain. And then you have to fetch the woven information when you want to access it.

How does a constellation of previously unrelated neural activity become bound together into a connected neural network that we experience as a singular memory? We’re not entirely sure of how this happens, but we know a great deal about where it happens. The information contained within an experience that is collected by your brain—the sensory perceptions, the language, the who, what, where, when, and why—is linked by a part of your brain called the hippocampus.

The hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure deep in the middle of your brain, is essential for memory consolidation. What does that mean? The hippocampus binds your memories. It is your memory weaver. What happened? Where and when did it happen? What does it mean? How did I feel about it? The hippocampus links all these separate pieces of information from disparate parts of the brain together, knitting them into a retrievable unit of associated data, a neural network that, when stimulated, is experienced as a memory.

So your hippocampus is necessary for the formation of any new memories that you can later consciously retrieve. If your hippocampus is damaged, your ability to create new memories will be impaired. Alzheimer’s disease begins its rampage in the hippocampus. As a result, the first symptoms of this disease are typically forgetting what happened earlier today or what someone just said a few minutes ago and repeating the same story or question over and over. With an impaired hippocampus, people with Alzheimer’s have trouble creating new memories.

Moreover, the consolidation mediated by the hippocampus is a time-dependent process that can be disrupted. The formation of a memory that can be retrieved tomorrow, next week, or twenty years from now requires a series of molecular events that take time. During that time, if something interferes with the processing of a nascent memory in the hippocampus, the memory can be degraded and possibly lost.

Say you’re a boxer, a football player, or a soccer player, and you sustain a blow to the head. If I were to interview you immediately after you got clocked, you would be able to tell me about the punch, the play, the details of what was happening. But if I were to ask you the next day, you might have no memory of what happened. The information that was in the process of becoming linked by your hippocampus to form a new, lasting memory was disrupted and was never fully consolidated. The blow to your head caused amnesia. Those memories are gone.

Damage to the hippocampus probably explains why Trevor Rees-Jones, bodyguard to Princess Diana and sole survivor of the car crash that killed her and Dodi Fyed all those years ago, still can’t remember any details of what happened leading up to the accident. He sustained a devastating head injury, requiring many surgeries and about 150 pieces of titanium to reconstruct his face. Because the various elements of his pre-crash experience had not been fully linked together by his hippocampus when his brain was injured, they were never stored. Those memories of what happened were never made.

What happens if you don’t have a hippocampus at all? Henry Molaison, or HM, as he is called in the thousands of papers citing his case for over half a century, is the most famous case study in the history of neuroscience. When Henry was a child, he fell off his bicycle, fracturing his skull. Whether because of this head injury or a family history of epilepsy no one is sure, but from the age of ten on, he regularly experienced debilitating seizures. Seventeen years later, his seizures still unrelenting and unresponsive to drug treatment, he was desperate and willing to try anything to get some relief. So on September 1, 1953, at the age of twenty-seven, Henry agreed to undergo experimental brain surgery.

The year 1953 was still well within the era of lobotomies and psychosurgeries, procedures that involved the indelicate removal or severing of brain regions to treat mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and brain disorders such as epilepsy. These kinds of surgical interventions are deemed grotesque, barbaric, and ineffective today, but back then, they were routinely performed by respected neurosurgeons. With the goal of eliminating Henry’s seizures, a neurosurgeon named William Scoville removed the hippocampus and surrounding brain tissue from both sides of Henry’s brain.

Here’s the good news. Henry’s seizures almost entirely subsided. And his personality, intelligence, language, motor function, and ability to perceive were undamaged by the procedure. So in that sense, the surgery was a success. But he had tragically traded one plague for another.
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

From the Publisher

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08F4KNSGR
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harmony (March 23 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 2005 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 264 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 1,056 ratings

About the author

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Lisa Genova graduated valedictorian, summa cum laude from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. Acclaimed as the Oliver Sacks of fiction and the Michael Crichton of brain science, she is the New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice, Left Neglected, Love Anthony, Inside the O’Briens and Every Note Played. Her first nonfiction book, REMEMBER: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting, was released March 23, 2021 and became an instant New York Times bestseller.

Lisa's extensively researched fiction focuses on people living with neurological diseases and disorders, people who tend to be ignored, feared, or misunderstood, portrayed within a narrative that is accessible to the general public. Through fiction, she is dedicated to describing with passion and accuracy the journeys of those affected by brain diseases and conditions, thereby educating, demystifying, destigmatizing, and inspiring support for care and scientific research. She has written novels about Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain injury, autism, Huntington's disease, and ALS.

Still Alice (Alzheimer’s) was adapted into a film starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, and Kate Bosworth. Julianne Moore won the Best Actress Oscar. Every Note Played (ALS) is in production and will star Christoph Waltz. The film adaptation for Inside the O’Briens (Huntington’s) is in production.

Speaking about brain health, memory, and the neurological diseases and disorders she writes about, Lisa has appeared on Today, the Dr. Oz Show, GPS with Fareed Zakaria, CNN, PBS NewsHour, and NPR and was featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary film To Not Fade Away and Have You Heard About Greg? She will be featured in an upcoming PBS Special about memory in June 2021.

In 2015, Lisa was named one of the U.S. Top 50 Influencers in Aging by Next Avenue. She received The Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square, for "distinguished storytelling that has enriched the public dialogue," The Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award, The Global Genes RARE Champions of Hope Award, and The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Media Award for "informing the public about Treatment and ongoing research in medical illness." In 2016, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bates College, The Alzheimer's Association's Rita Hayworth Award, and The Huntington’s Disease Society of America Community Awareness Award.

Lisa’s first TED talk, What You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer’s, has been viewed over 5 million times. Her latest TED talk, How Memory Works (and Why Forgetting Normal), will be released April 21, 2021.

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
1,056 global ratings

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Top reviews from other countries

Joeturner5
5.0 out of 5 stars Really reminded me of how interesting memory is-loved it.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 16, 2021
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Lotusgav
5.0 out of 5 stars Very reassuring
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 18, 2021
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Nannette Catmur
5.0 out of 5 stars Ah Ha!
Reviewed in Australia on April 10, 2021
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Joan Woodhouse
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Reviewed in Australia on July 23, 2021
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MCZ
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Reviewed in Germany on October 11, 2021
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