It’s convenient that Dan Schacter put labels on the failure of memory—transience, absent mindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias and persistence—but we have learned that nothing with the brain is ever as clear cut as that. Everything is twined together, memory, a convoluted mass of infinite possible failures, rather than just those seven.
The brain has various areas that contribute to memory, but the separate parts work as teammates. It is completely understandable that H.M. lost his ability to form new memories after a part of his brain was removed to relieve him of his epileptic fits. The LeDoux reading explored the scientific part of memory loss, explaining how scientists would tweak the brain to provoke memory failure in animals (was I the only one saddened at the thought of the animals having their brain functions stolen from them?). It made me wonder about memory versus learning. Some things we know are innate and others are escorted by memory to be processed, like learning preference of taste and being conditioned. But how much of learning has to do with our memory? And concerning, let’s say, schoolwork, where does memorizing information transfer into having the information be learned? It’s like no matter how far our research and data advances, we would still never know enough about how our brains work.
“In the Shadow of Memory” and “The Missing World” dealt with the much more humanistic side of injury/disease/illness and helplessness of memory loss. Floyd Skloot can find the humor in his predicament and on occasion, use it to his advantage (he’s a writer and his word substitutions are really quite poetic) but I suppose he would have to be after such a long time. I was only two days old when his brain infection set in and began to morph his life, so I keep trying to fathom the length of my life being the length of readjustment to his memory loss and it seems impossible. Despite living the healthiest life he could, (he ran like five miles a day without any problems!) he still was affected by some unexpected variable, which reinstates how frightening life can be; things just come at you without warning. He transformed completely, not necessarily for better or worse (although I find it incredibly interesting that his wife likes the newer version of her husband), but it’s like having a second life. He became slower-paced, calmer, more relaxed, and extraordinarily sensitive— completely opposite of his first self.
Credit this to