Pieces of Light: The new science of memory Hardcover – 5 Jul 2012
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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)
Why we remember what we remember.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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'.Read more ›
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?Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I gave up less than a third of the way through with still no scientific revelations in sight as it maundered along.Published 22 months ago by Cunctator
I read The Baby in the Mirror a few years ago and found it fascinating. Before buying Pieces of Light (which I think is a pun on Pieces of Eight, for buried treasure) I'd read... Read morePublished on 11 May 2014 by Aurifex
This is not your average science book. Mixing very personal biography with the the very latest neuroscience Charles Fernyhough takes us on a journey of our understanding of... Read morePublished on 23 Feb. 2014 by Martin Vickers
Some interesting new ways of seeing memory. Goes a little too much into the authors autobiography for examples but otherwise a good read for research on the subject or general... Read morePublished on 1 Feb. 2014 by zalan k