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Remembering: What 50 Years of Research with Famous Amnesia Patient H.M. Can Teach Us about Memory and How It Works (Hardcover)

Remembering: What 50 Years of Research with Famous Amnesia Patient H.M. Can Teach Us about Memory and How It Works By Donald G. MacKay Cover Image
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The psychologist who worked with a famous amnesiac patient for fifty years explains what his studies show about how memory functions and ways to keep the brain sharp.

At age twenty-seven, Henry Molaison underwent brain surgery to remedy life-threatening epilepsy. This operation inadvertently destroyed his hippocampus, the engine in the brain for forming new memories. Henry--until recently, known only as Patient H.M.--suffered catastrophic memory failures for the rest of his life and he became the most studied amnesia patient in the history of the world.

Dr. Donald MacKay's studies with Henry span fifty years. They reveal the profound importance of memory. Memory decline impacts everything that makes a normal human mind and brain worth having: creative expression; artistic endeavors; awareness; and the ability to plan, to comprehend, to detect and correct errors, to appreciate humor, to imagine hypothetical situations, and to perceive novelty in the world. His research also shows how to keep memories sharp at any age and how to offset the degradation that aging and infrequent use inflict on memory.

Remembering summarizes other results of the revolution in scientific understanding of mind and memory that began with Henry. Importantly, it makes good on the promise that research with Henry would help others by focusing on what readers who wish to maintain the everyday functioning of memory, mind, and brain (their own or others') can learn from the still ongoing revolution that he inspired.

About the Author

Donald G. MacKay, PhD, is currently a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), where he founded the UCLA Cognition and Aging Lab and co-directed the UCLA Language, Emotion and Memory Lab (LEMLAB). He has delivered over 200 invited talks around the world and has published over 145 scientific papers and two scholarly books on topics related to memory and the brain. His research at UCLA focused on the memory errors of older adults, undergraduates, and children in order to understand how memory, mind, and brain normally work. Beginning as a graduate student at MIT (the Massachusetts of Technology), Dr. MacKay analyzed the spectacular errors in speech, comprehension, and visual perception of the famous amnesia patient Henry Molaison in order to understand how damage to the hippocampus impairs the ability to learn new information and how normal people create new memories. To help future MDs gain insights into the unique needs of the older patients that will dominate their careers, Dr. MacKay recently organized a seminar on neurology, gerontology, and psychiatry for college graduates at Scripps College taking make-up courses needed for applying to medical school.

Praise For…

“An accessible and entertaining invitation to the science of memory through one of the most important case studies in the history of science.”
—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and Enlightenment Now

“A fascinating history of Donald G. MacKay’s studies of the famous patient Henry Molaison—how Molaison’s memory deficits impaired his ability to create flexible models of the external world, and how such models are essential to normal human consciousness.” 
—Paul L. Nunez, PhD, neuroscientist, and author of The New Science of Consciousness: Exploring the Complexity of Brain, Mind, and Self   

“Well-written and informative. . . .  MacKay deftly interweaves a new theory of hippocampal function with sound advice about how to care for your own brain as you age.”
—Dr. Douglas Hintzman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Oregon

“In Remembering, MacKay gifts us with some of the extraordinary and often surprising insights he gained during his decades of work with the amnesic Henry Molaison, the most important human research subject of all time. Parts of the book cast a skeptical light on some of the basic conclusions drawn from Molaison’s data while he was alive and while others raise troubling questions about the stewardship of that data since his death. Throughout the book, the reader is given not just a crash course in memory science but also practical lessons on how to apply what we’ve learned from Molaison to keep our own memories as fresh and vibrant and enduring as possible.” 

—Luke Dittrich, New York Times–bestselling author of Patient H.M. 

“A fascinating and highly readable account of the author’s firsthand study of Henry Molaison, whose damaged brain provided extraordinary contributions to fundamental knowledge of how the brain remembers. Using Molaison’s story as the framework, MacKay explains in detail how memory works, and offers extensive guidance for keeping it in good working order across one’s life span.”
—James E. Alcock, PhD, professor of psychology, York University, and author of Belief

“In this highly readable account of the amnesic patient Henry Molaison, MacKay describes how Molaison had language and other cognitive problems as well as his celebrated memory impairment. Using Molaison’s problems as a framework, MacKay provides a down-to-earth introduction to the study of memory, language and thinking, and their relations to brain processes. The book is enlivened by many personal anecdotes, yet it is also a serious introduction to the author’s ideas on remembering and related issues.”
—Fergus Craik, University Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
“This thorough and engaging book shows how science and everyday life interact in both meaningful and mysterious ways. Henry Molaison’s amnesia provided researchers with a unique opportunity to uncover how memory and forgetting can define and challenge us all on a daily basis. Describing important scientific discoveries, along with insightful personal examples and practical tips, MacKay masterfully shows what can be learned from the trials and tribulations of a lifelong journey.”
—Alan D. Castel, professor of psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Better with Age: The Psychology of Successful Aging

"MacKay is the ideal storyteller—colorful in writing style and brilliant in research, analysis, and evidence-based theory formulation—enabling the understanding how brain damage and normal aging affect memory and the application of new discoveries to keep your memory sharp.”
—Jim Geiwitz, author of Happiness: How to Achieve It, Why You Lose It, and Its Central Role in the Life Worth Living

"A beautiful blend of storytelling and practical information. Memory is essential for many of the brain’s most important processes, so we all should pay more attention to it. To the rescue comes MacKay who explains in clear language how we remember the past and what we can do to help our brains stay healthy and sharp for as long as possible. Ignore this important book at your own peril.”
—Guy P. Harrison, author of At Least Know This and Good Thinking

“This is a wonderfully approachable and refreshingly personal account of how fifty years of scientific detective work have changed how we should think about memory. MacKay makes a compelling case that the classic amnesic patient Henry Molaison did not have a ‘pure’ memory disorder. His hippocampal damage caused a general binding deficit that disrupted complex cognition across the board.”
—William Marslen-Wilson, professor of language and cognition, University of Cambridge

Product Details
ISBN: 9781633884076
ISBN-10: 1633884074
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication Date: January 29th, 2019
Pages: 400
Language: English