Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past

Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past

Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past

Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past

Synopsis

Daniel Schacter lets the public in on the developments made in understanding the way memories are stored and retrieved. With case studies he explains how past experiences influence the formation of new memories, and why memory changes with age.

Excerpt

In GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ's epic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, a strange plague invades the small village of Macondo, causing the inhabitants to lose aspects of their memories. The symptoms develop in stages. Each villager loses the ability to call up childhood recollections, then the names and functions of objects, later the identity of other people, and finally "even the awareness of his own being."

A silversmith, frightened when he cannot come up with the word anvil to describe the tool he has always worked with, frantically goes about placing written labels on every item in his home. Inspired by the method's seeming success, José Arcadio Buendía attempts to label everything in the village:

He . . . marked the animals and plants: cow, goat, pig, hen, cassava, caladium, banana. Little by little, studying the infinite possibilities of loss of memory, he realized that the day might come when things would be recognized by their inscriptions but that no one would remember their use. Then he was more explicit. . . . This is the cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk, and the milk must be boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk.

Distressed at the thought of a life of endless labeling, Buendia makes a heroic last attempt to save the memory of the villagers: he . . .

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