Committed to Memory

COMMITTED TO MEMORY: HOW WE REMEMBER AND WHY WE FORGET is science with a different twist. Cell biologist Rebecca Rupp presents neuroanatomy and research on how the brain functions in an unorthodox manner that will be engaging to some readers and annoying to others who like their science “cut and dried.” The book is a mixed bag—scientific information interspersed with philosophy, trivia, practical tips, anecdotes, and quotations from classical authors.

The introduction discusses the place of memory in Greek mythology and sets the philosophical tone of the book. It reminds readers of the importance of memory, which has become undervalued in an electronic age. Each person’s memory is unique; it makes them what they are and shapes their future; it is their link with history and culture; and it feeds their soul. The rest of the book is divided into three sections: Remembering, Forgetting, and Food for Thought. Chapters have “cute” titles—“Isaac Newton’s Dinner and 15,000 Chinese Telephone Numbers,” “Forgettable You,” “A Quick Trip Through the Brain,” and “Howdy Doody and Homer,” to name but a few. Three to five pages long, somewhat like a book of meditations, chapters present a small dose of research and heavy science in charming, often humorous, prose. In Remembering, Rupp discusses studies of different types of memory and memory impairments and related anatomy. “Knowing that” is different from “knowing how.” Forgetting deals with theory and research on epilepsy, the unconscious, fantasies, trauma, hindsight, the forgetting curve, sensory associations, and the effects of aging and drugs on memory. Food for Thought deals with phrenology, education and memory, and memory training and aids. There is also a comprehensive bibliography.