Down memory lane


The November issue of National Geographic has a cover story about memory, called Remember This.

The author of the article is a journalist called Joshua Foer, who won the 2006 USA Memory Championships after entering the competition to research a book.

Foer discusses a number of amnesic patients, including the famous H.M., on whom much of what we know about memory is based, and E.P, who suffered severe retrograde and antergrade amnesia following a herpes simplex infection which completely destroyed his hippocampi.

The article touches on the work of researchers who have made major contributions to our understanding of memory: Daniel Schacter, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, Larry Squire, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of California School of Medicine in San Diego, who works with E.P., and Wilder Penfield, the pioneering neurosurgeon who developed the surgical technique used on H.M.

Also discussed in the article are mnemonic devices, the memory aids which can be used to memorize vast amounts of information and which Foer himself used to win the Memory Championships, plus historical references to them, and the efforts of pharmaceuticals companies to develop memory-enhancing drugs.

Accompanying Foer's article on the National Geographic website is a very cool interactive 3D map of the brain, which can be flipped and rotated to reveal the structures involved in encoding and storing different kinds of memories.


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