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Gordon, Barry Memory, 1996




Gordon, Barry
Memory, 1996
Remembering and forgetting in everyday life


Journal of International Neuropsychological Society, Winter 1998
Dr. Gordon does a masterful job of interlacing basis scientific research and knowledge regarding memory functions with practical, everyday, "every person" memory experiences, successes, and failures.

From the Back Cover

We all occasionally misplace the car keys, forget a name or go to the store to buy milk and come back with everything but! In fact, 67 percent of Americans claim they experience memory loss, but the truth is only a small proportion develop real memory problems due to brain disease. With memory, some things are serious; most are not, but count on a few surprises!

Contrary to popular belief, memory is not like a photographic record or a file in a computer than can be saved and called up anytime. And not all memories are created equal. You can improve your memory simply by adopting a positive attitude. Believing you are likely to remember something, does increase the chances you will.

In Memory: Remembering and Forgetting in Everyday Life, memory specialist Dr. Barry Gordon tells you why you forget the way you do; how to increase and improve your memory; the amazing feats your memory performs daily; and about extraordinary clinical tales of memory loss. Memory will answer your questions, such as: can a busy lifestyle cause forgetfulness; does stress or depression affect my memory; is memory loss inevitable as I age; and how can I tell if I have a memory problem.

About the Author

Barry Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., is a behavioral neurologist, cognitive neuroscientist, and experimental psychologist and neuropsychologist. His clinical and research work focuses on memory and language, particularly as they are affected by disorders of the brain, and on possible treatments for memory and language disorders. His specific research interests include: early detection and treatment of Alzheimer's disease; communication and language deficits in autism; direct brain mapping of language and memory functions in humans; aphasia; and closed head injury.

Dr. Gordon is Professor of Neurology and Cognitive Science at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He heads the division of Cognitive Neurology/Neuropsychology there, where he is also the director of The Memory Clinic. He is a Founding Member of Johns Hopkins' Mind/Brain Institute. Among his professional positions, he is President of the Behavioral Neurology Society and division of the American Academy of Neurology, and was formerly the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Aphasia. He has authored or co-authored over 59 professional papers and 35 book chapters. His book Memory: Remembering and Forgetting in Everyday Life was published in October 1995, and was a selection of the Book-of-the-Month-Club in June 1996, and of the Quality Paperback Book Club in the Fall 1996. Dr. Gordon was named "Best Doctor" for Alzheimer's Disease by Baltimore Magazine in 1995.

Dr. Gordon has lectured widely to both professional and public audiences, including at the Smithsonian Institution. His work has received national and international media attention, such as the PBS series "The Brain," NPR's Fresh Air, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, NBC's Dateline, The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Parade Magazine.

Excerpted from Memory; A Road Map to the Mechanics of Memory by Barry Gordon.

How would you rate your memory?
(a) Really bad - I forget everything!
(b) Not too bad - but I forget more often than other people.
(c) Normal. Like everyone, mostly I remember, but sometimes I forget.
(d) It's perfect. I never forget anything.

Answer (a) Really bad - you can relax a bit. Keep in mind the old saying that "the more you complain, the longer you live." In general, the worse you think your memory is, the less likely it is that you have a serious brain problem. There are at least two reasons for this. First, if you really had a serious memory problem, then you would not remember what you forget; you would not even be aware that you had a memory problem. If you can remember everything that you have forgotten and the details of how you forgot it, then you are showing at least part of your memory is working quite well.

Second, if you really did have a brain disease such as Alzheimer's, you would be much less likely to think your memory is terrible - even though it may be! This is because the damage to the brain caused by Alzheimer's frequrently affects areas of the brain that impair your knowledge of your own abilities. So people with Alzheiemer's tend to minimize or ignore the memory problems that they have.

Answer (b) Not too bad, but more often that most people. You may have a realistic appraisal of your own memory. If you are concerned that it is worse than other peoples' or worse than it should be for you, or if you think that it has gotten worse in the last year, then getting it checked is reasonable.

Answer (c) Normal with occasional forgetting. You may be normal. However, if you had Alzheimer's disease, you might think the same thing. If your spouse or friends do not notice anything wrong with your memory, then you can relax. But if they have been rumbling about your forgetfulness, then it would probably be best if you got it checked.

Answer (d) I never forget anything. If we can believe you, this is wonderful! You should make a living showing off your memory skills! You should volunteer for memory experiments! But without knowing more about you, it is more likely that your memory is not so extraordinary. It may be good, but not perfect. No one has a perfect memory for everything. In one study of ten people who thought they had extraordinary memories (volunteers who presented themselves after hearing a radio program), only one probably had a memory that was better than average. Even people with amazing memories in some areas, such as the mnemonists described in Chapter 19 do not remember everything. V.P., a man who never forgot any story he ever read, could not remember peoples' faces.