The neuroscientist and bestselling author of Still Alice explains how memories are made, how to retrieve them, and why forgetting the reason you walked into the kitchen is no reason to panic.
Everyone fears forgetting. Yet for most people—at any age—forgetting is not only normal, it’s an important aspect of how memory functions. “Even in the smartest of heads, memory is fallible,” writes Genova. “A man famous for memorizing more than a hundred thousand digits of pi can also forget his wife’s birthday.” As the author shows, how memory works, and how we can optimize it, is a complex subject. In conversational language, Genova details how the brain processes events and how we have the power to help select what transfers from fleeting knowledge to long-term memory. For example, while it is common to forget the name of a person you briefly met, you can also train yourself to improve attention to such details and improve recall. “Memory is the sum of what we remember and what we forget,” writes the author, “and there is an art and science to both.” In addition to her beautiful explanations of the brain’s function, Genova also spells out how everyday behaviors strongly affect memory as well as the risk of developing various forms of dementia. Sleep, stress, diet, and exercise all play important roles, which is profound because it means that there are accessible ways to prevent memory loss. Also significant is the author’s recurring reminder that, above all, we “are more than what we remember.” 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.