Most of us remember where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. Why do most experiences leave little trace while some―even terrible ordeals that people wish they could forget―leave memories that last a lifetime? That is the mystery at the heart of this book.
Drawing on fascinating research and case studies, James McGaugh, a distinguished neuroscientist, reveals that the key to understanding how memories are created may well be understanding how they are lost. He shows that lasting memories are not stored instantly. Why the delay? The author explains how the slow consolidation of memory has important adaptive consequences. It allows physiological processes activated by experiences to regulate the strength of the memory of the experiences. Emotionally arousing experiences induce the release of stress hormones, which act on the brain to influence the consolidation of our memories of recent experience. These findings have important implications for the controversial issues of post–traumatic stress disorder and repressed memory syndrome.
From the prescientific writings of William James to the animal studies of the memory-research pioneers Pavlov, Thorndike, and Tolman, to the latest research of psychologists and neurologists drawing on PET imaging studies of the brain and laboratory experiments involving a variety of drugs, this succinct book provides a wealth of information.
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Memories come in many different forms and vary substantially in strength; some, such as where you put your car keys, can be brief, while others remain in the mind forever. James McGaugh, a leading neurobiologist, provides an accessible and thought-provoking look at how we remember and why we forget. Beginning with the first scientific studies of learning and ending with the latest cutting-edge research, he explores how memories are made and preserved; why some experiences fade and disappear with time; how stress hormones effect the consolidation of memory; whether drugs would improve our ability to learn; and what studies of extraordinary memories and disorders tell us about the workings of the brain systems involved in memory formation.About the Author:
James L. McGaugh is founding director of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory and research professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California, Irvine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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