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Pieces of Light: The new science of memory Hardcover – 5 Jul 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; Advance Reading Copy? edition (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184668448X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846684487
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 3.2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 516,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

In this enthralling tour of human memory, Charles Fernyhough - himself a hybrid of science and poetry - reveals the mysterious forces behind these stories that shape our lives. (Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works)

Both playful and profound, a wonderfully memorable read (Douwe Draaisma, author of Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older)

A beautifully written, absorbing read - a fascinating journey through the latest science of memory (Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine)

Fernyhough weaves literature and science to expose our rich, beautiful relationship with our past and future selves. (Dr. David Eagleman, Neuroscientist and author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain)

Combining the engaging style of a novelist with the rigour of a scientist, Charles Fernyhough has written an insightful and thought provoking meditation on the nature of memory and its implications for our everyday lives. Pieces of Light will both linger in your memory and change the way you think about it. (Daniel L. Schacter, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers.)

An immense pleasure (New Scientist)

A captivating journey into the mind...[told] with great style. (Telegraph)

With elegance and clinical sympathy, Fernyhough tells the stories of patients with various forms of brain damage that cause amnesia. Memory may remain an enigma, but this book is a good, accessible read (BBC Focus)

Book Description

Why we remember what we remember.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This has been my bedside reading for the past couple of weeks. I've always been interested in the way Memory and Imagination work together to create. How the imagination takes all the snippets of things we've stored in our brains over the years and weaves them into something completely new. What I didn't realise, until I read Charles Fernyhough's book, Pieces of Light: The new science of memory was just how dependent the memory was on imagination in order to enable us to remember.

It seems that our memories of past events aren't stored in one place, like a video film, just waiting to be re-run, but in bits and pieces of information in different parts of the brain; smell in one place, sound in another, visual and emotional cues in others. When we try to remember something that happened to us in the past, our imagination comes into play to reconstruct the memory as a narrative, which explains why people remember things so differently, and memories alter through time - a minor detail when the event took place might acquire real significance later.

In amnesia victims, where the part of the brain that controls imagination is damaged, memory is severely disrupted and `forward thinking' - the ability to speculate about the future - is impossible.

The way we encode our lives in the memory is also interesting - apparently we are all natural story-tellers. `Narrative,' Fernyhough states, `is a key organisational force in autobiographical memory.' We remember events as stories, pieces of narrative. The author comments in the book, `I set out to write about some science, and I ended up by telling a lot of stories'.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was searching for something up-to-date that would explain the science and art of memory; I wanted a book that was comprehensible to an outsider to neuroscience but not one that oversimplified. Fernyhough's book is perfect, so useful that I bought a second copy for my iPad.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great book! It introduces each memory first through a personal or case experience, which is followed by the most recent scientific data in the field. You can grasp the laborious research which has gone into this book, everything is incredibly well explained. With me coming from a memory and neuroscience field myself, it is incredibly easy to read. But also for people with an interest, yet not a detailed knowledge, this book is a must read.
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Format: Paperback
This looks like a popular science book but reads like literary non-fiction. It minimizes the science, weaves in stories based on personal experience, draws on fiction, and is slow to get to the point. As an example of the minimisation of the science, take Chapter 2, which is about getting lost. It consists of 22 pages, of which only four pages are about the science – the working of the hippocampus. Having expected something that would get to the point quickly and explain experiments and theories in sufficient detail to be able to judge their merits, I was disappointed. But I’m giving it 3 stars because it’s well written, with paragraphing and all. I mention paragraphing because Charles Fernyhough’s frequent digressions while recounting a journey are vaguely reminiscent of the style of W.G. Sebald in “The Rings of Saturn”, only with paragraphing. He actually mentions another work by Sebald a couple of times, so he has probably been slightly influenced by that style.

Some topics are notable by their absence. Fernyhough gives evidence that memory depends on language, on having the vocabulary for the things you want to recall, yet also says that the dominant theory is the scene construction model, which posits that memory relies on the skill of our species at spatial processing. Why no adequate explanation of how the verbal and spatial findings fit together? Also, the phrase “our species” implies that the claims about spatial processing apply equally to the females and males of our species, yet there are sex differences in spatial abilities. Does this result in sex differences in memory? Why no mention of this?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an interesting book. It explains in a popular way how memory is seen by experts in the field. It has been known for a long time that memory does not work like a video or dvd recorder though it seems that there are still people around who hold to that outmoded and discredited view. Charles Fernyhough shows how memory is reconstructive and uses his own experience and scientific findings to produce a book that is very readable.
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Format: Paperback
Over the years, I've seen the human memory at its best and worst. I watched my Nan suffer with Alzheimer's to the point she couldn't remember who anyone was, but also had a colleague who won a silver medal at the Memory Olympics for his ability to remember long strings of items. I also studied memory as part of a psychology degree but, perhaps ironically, I can no longer remember much of what I learned.

In ''Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory'', Charles Fernyhough proposes a different way of looking at memory. He suggests that current research shows that memories are not all locked away in a vault ready for retrieval, but that every time we have a memory, we are rebuilding it on each occasion. He shows how this can mean people of different ages will remember things from different parts of their lives, depending on how their brains are wired and what can cause forgetting.

Although he doesn't specifically mention Alzheimer's, he talks about what can act as a block to memory in various ways and how traumatic events can take their own hold over our memories but can, in turn, be handled. There is a brief mention of how seemingly long forgotten events can be sparked into life with the right cues and how memories can be falsely generated or influenced by external factors, particularly in the very young.

Fernyhough writes in a very narrative style, which is unusual in what is essentially a textbook, but which gives the book a better flow than it may otherwise have had. He has written a novel and that experience stands him in good stead here. Even when the material does become a little more complicated, as he reports of research carried out on specific areas of the brain, his style means the book is always readable.
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