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Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research [Bargain Price] [Hardcover]

Sue Halpern
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 6, 2008 0307406741 1
An essential behind-the-scenes foray into the world of cutting-edge memory research that unveils findings about memory loss only now available to general readers.

When Sue Halpern decided to emulate the first modern scientist of memory, Hermann Ebbinghaus, who experimented on himself, she had no idea that after a day of radioactive testing, her brain would become so “hot” that leaving through the front door of the lab would trigger the alarm. This was not the first time while researching Can’t Remember What I Forgot, part of which appeared in The New Yorker, that Halpern had her head examined, nor would it be the last.

Halpern spent years in the company of the neuroscientists, pharmacologists, psychologists, nutritionists, and inventors who are hunting for the genes and molecules, the drugs and foods, the machines, the prosthetics, the behaviors and therapies that will stave off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and keep our minds–and memories–intact. Like many of us who have had a relative or friend succumb to memory loss, who are getting older, who are hearing statistics about our own chances of falling victim to dementia, who worry that each lapse of memory portends disease, Halpern wanted to find out what the experts really knew, what the bench scientists were working on, how close science is to a cure, to treatment, to accurate early diagnosis, and, of course, whether the crossword puzzles, sudokus, and ballroom dancing we’ve been told to take up can really keep us lucid or if they’re just something to do before the inevitable overtakes us.

Beautifully written, sharply observed, and deeply informed, Can’t Remember What I Forgot is a book full of vital information–and a solid dose of hope.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist and science writer Halpern (Four Wings and a Prayer) wades bravely into the morass of modern memory research to sort the truth from a wide assortment of hyperbole and promises and platitudes. The news is mixed: most of us won't develop Alzheimer's, but everyone will suffer some memory loss. After describing the different types of memory, Halpern gamely undertakes a series of brain scans used to reveal brain damage and tries diagnostic tests that measure memory through the ability to recall words, images and smells. Researchers have identified a gene closely linked with Alzheimer's, but drugs to treat or prevent memory loss are still far from reality, Halpern says, adding that for many drug companies, the success of a remedy is measured only by how quickly it moves off the shelves. Armed with a mix of hope and healthy skepticism, the author also examines claims that eating chocolate (among other things) or solving puzzles can improve brain function. So much of who we know ourselves to be comes from what we remember, Halpern writes, and her timely book offers a vivid, often amusing introduction to a science that touches us all. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Halpern, author of Four Wings and a Prayer (2001), tackles memory, the most elusive of subjects, in her return to nonfiction after her powerful debut novel, The Book of Hard Things (2003). Goaded by the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and the seemingly inevitable equation—more years lived, more memory lost—Halpern puts herself on the line in this energetic inquiry into cutting-edge neurological research. As a test subject, she undergoes brain scans, including one that turns her radioactive; takes batteries of cognitive tests; visits the labs of leading neuroscientists; and tracks drug-development efforts. Halpern is rigorous in her explanations of the workings of the hippocampus, and impish in her critique of corporate-funded research (why is Mars, the maker of M & Ms, interested in neuroscience?). She incisively contrasts popular claims for the memory-boosting qualities of ginkgo biloba, blueberries, crossword puzzles, ballroom dancing, and chocolate with the painstaking work of scientists attempting to decode neurotransmitters and determine the genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Evincing a gift for perfect analogies and supple metaphors, mischievous humor, and righteous skepticism, Halpern is an exceptionally companionable and enlightening guide through the maze of memory maladies and the promising search for remedies. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1 edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307406741
  • ASIN: B002T450S2
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,717,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Mother's Self-Help Book May 28, 2008
If you are looking for a self-help book, there are plenty out there. But as Sue Halpern shows in this beautifully written exploration of modern memory research, many of them simply spout platitudes and propose "remedies" that have little basis in science. Halpern gets behind the hype and tries to tell us what really works and why it works, and she introduces us to the people who are searching for cures and therapies. By the end I felt like I had a much broader understanding of what was going on with my own memory and that I was much better equipped to talk to my doctor about my concerns, both of which seem like the best kind of help a book could offer, even for a book that is in no way a self-help book. And it's fun to read, too.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book--just not about Alzheimers May 26, 2008
This is a really wonderful book--it's just that it's about normal memory loss, not catastrophic types like Alzheimers. I.e., about the thing that's affecting all of us as we age, and keeping us from remembering where the hell the car keys are.

The author, who has a piece about PTSD in last week's New Yorker, has been in all the cutting-edge labs, and indeed has let them scan her brain with all the latest gear. It describes what scientists are discovering about the brain, and about what you can do to keep yours working better longer--hint, I'm going out for a run now.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Informative May 27, 2008
By EricSF
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sue Halpern does a tremendous job of taking a complex area of study (neuroscience) and boiling it down to relevant, digestible information. I was impressed with her ability to distill the information in a way that can help non-scientists understand clinical issues, diagnostics and best practices. Additionally, it was a pleasure to see an author become well enough acquainted with the scientific process and the specific subject matter to recommend that consumers purchase products with independent, peer-reviewed research backing up their claims. Thank you for doing the work and providing consumers with useful guidance. Three cheers!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Brain Safari May 28, 2008
Sue Halpern takes the reader on a fascinating and provocative safari through the wilds of the human brain in this new book. Conventional wisdom should run and hide from Halpern's penetrative gaze: forget what you thought you knew about how memory functions, this book's tour of the frontlines of memory research tosses out old theories about how to stay sharp into old age and offers quality (and scientific) advice on how to keep your melon from meandering. So put down the crossword puzzle, read this book, and then call up an old flame and take him or her out ballroom dancing - you'll see what I mean when you finish Halpern's masterpiece. Bravo!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely buy this book! May 28, 2008
Sue Halpern writes with vivid clarity, honesty and empathy about that scary, complex world that looms before us all -- aging,and memory loss. She makes it a lot less scary by explaining the science so clearly, and by helping us understand that forgetting is "normal." She sifts through all the confusing studies and tells us what really works (aerobic exercise and, maybe, blueberries). And she takes us into the labs, and minds, of some of the brilliant neurologists who are working on the front lines of memory research. This book is packed with science -- understandable science -- and humanity.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not practically helpful November 7, 2008
I hoped this book would be practically helpful for a family member with pretty severe short-term memory problems. It was actually a sort of "travel book" - a tour of scientists who are studying memory problems generally.

It's good if you are interested in a general tour but, for me, this was unfortunate since I had hoped this book would be practically helpful for a family member with pretty severe short-term memory problems. It contained very few useful tips, most of which are already widely publicized, such as drinking red wine (apparently it's the flavanols, like green tea) and aerobic exercise as well as walking (two miles a day in one study, just one and a half hours a week in another) - also ballroom dancing is tops of all leisure activities. Chocolate, because of its flavanols, receives several pages; although it warns that the chocolate should not be processed in the usual way it doesn't suggest which chocolate brands are best - rather irritating but fortunately I have since learned elsewhere that we need to use the raw, organic cacao bean.

More helpful was "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge. One elderly doctor interviewed by the author recommended one of those computer-based programmes with mental exercises scientifically designed to improve memory which he personally had found beneficial and we bought it immediately. It was hard to get our loved one to use it though (memory problems apparently tend to affect those who don't really use their minds that much - or who take certain types of drugs: read "Lipitor: Thief of Memory " and your blood will run cold) and in the end we did not see much improvement although we suspect it wasn't used for long enough.

Later note: anti-anxiety medication was the most practically helpful step, showing benefits within hours, despite the medics saying it takes weeks.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bulletin from the war front December 12, 2008
Because her father suffered some kind of not-clearly-diagnosed dementia near the end of his life, Sue Halpern was concerned that she might have inherited a predisposition to Alzheimer's disease. So she went to talk to neuroscientists. And took memory tests. And watched other people taking memory tests. And talked to nutritionists, and lots of other people in, around, and related to the "memory loss" field, including some who were making good money promoting various "how to" classes. The result is sort of a smorgasbord of what's out there, and the reader can meander around and pick and taste.

"Can't Remember What I Forgot" includes the promising, the questionable, and the dismaying, but spread out for our inspection are a lot of nuggets of interest. My favorite, and perhaps the hero of the book is Scott Small, who, using techniques he himself developed, came to the conclusion that the part of the brain that is impaired in Alzheimer's patients is not the same as the part impaired in "normal" forgetting that supposedly is a function of aging. Next nugget, not particularly in any order, is research that suggests that eating blueberries promotes the growth of new neurons in rats (and maybe in people). Next, the nugget of research that suggests that aerobic exercise is a good way of staving off memory loss. Another nugget of research suggests that people with a lot of education are less likely to develop Alzheimer's than people without. Since we're visiting a lot of booths at the bazaar, we also visit some people selling exercises that hopefully will increase the ability to memorize long lists of items, a skill that supposedly helps guard against . . . Against what? Mind deterioration? Memory loss? Alzheimer's?

Somewhere along the way I start having questions.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Contains a lot to think about (pun intended)...
We've more "brain power" than we know about (or are capable of using at present). This analysis gives the reader more understanding on how the brain works (knowledge we... Read more
Published 1 month ago by C. Barker
2.0 out of 5 stars faux science writing at its best
If you are looking for a book to discuss scientific findings with any sort of care, this is not the book for you. Read more
Published 23 months ago by A. Rivers
5.0 out of 5 stars Hopeful
I enjoyed this book immensely. No matter how difficult the science being discussed, the prose is always lucid and entertaining. Sue Halpern writes with authority and good humor. Read more
Published on April 14, 2011 by Trumbo123
4.0 out of 5 stars no immediate help for alzheimer's
"CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT I FORGOT: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research, by Sue Halpern (272 pgs., 2008)." The title gives a perfect summary of this book. Read more
Published on May 22, 2010 by R. A. Frauenglas
2.0 out of 5 stars Really all about Alzheimer's Disease
I was a bit disappointed with this book. I thought it would talk a lot more about the different types of memory we have and the different types of research that is being done about... Read more
Published on January 9, 2010 by D.J. Young
4.0 out of 5 stars An informative, enjoyable read.
I bought this book because I felt the need to understand memory loss and/or dementia. Dementia is common in my family and I have always had a lot of concerns in regards to... Read more
Published on July 18, 2009 by KatyDid
4.0 out of 5 stars Science for the non-scientific
Do you have trouble remembering names? Forget where you parked your car at the mall? Miss an appointment? Read more
Published on February 17, 2009 by beanbug
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but too light
Theis book is about an area of importance to me. It lightly touches some very interesting concepts and ideas, but all too briefly. I was left wanting to know more . Read more
Published on September 10, 2008 by Malcolm R. Tyler
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't remember what I forgot...
Gosh, I did forget what I forgot, I forgot the title of the book. All kidding aside, it's a book for everyone. It is not just for people who have a loved one with Alzheimers. Read more
Published on August 15, 2008 by Nena
1.0 out of 5 stars Hard to understand
Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research I am not too pleased with this book because it is so technical. Read more
Published on August 4, 2008 by Mary Jean Valiquette
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