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Adventures in Memory: Exploring the Science and Secrets of Human Memory

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A novelist and a neuroscientist uncover the secrets of human memory. What makes us remember? Why do we forget? And what, exactly, is a memory? With playfulness and intelligence, Diving for Seahorses answers these questions and more, offering an illuminating look at one of our most fascinating faculties: our memory. The authors—two Norwegian sisters, one a neuropsychologist a A novelist and a neuroscientist uncover the secrets of human memory. What makes us remember? Why do we forget? And what, exactly, is a memory? With playfulness and intelligence, Diving for Seahorses answers these questions and more, offering an illuminating look at one of our most fascinating faculties: our memory. The authors—two Norwegian sisters, one a neuropsychologist and the other an acclaimed writer—skillfully interweave history, research, and exceptional personal stories, taking readers on a captivating exploration of the evolving science of memory from its humble Renaissance beginnings up to the present day. They interview experts of all stripes, from the world’s top neuroscientists to famous novelists, from taxi drivers to quizmasters, to help explain how memory works, why it sometimes fails, and what we can do to improve it. Filled with cutting-edge research and nimble storytelling, the result is a charming—and memorable—adventure through human memory


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A novelist and a neuroscientist uncover the secrets of human memory. What makes us remember? Why do we forget? And what, exactly, is a memory? With playfulness and intelligence, Diving for Seahorses answers these questions and more, offering an illuminating look at one of our most fascinating faculties: our memory. The authors—two Norwegian sisters, one a neuropsychologist a A novelist and a neuroscientist uncover the secrets of human memory. What makes us remember? Why do we forget? And what, exactly, is a memory? With playfulness and intelligence, Diving for Seahorses answers these questions and more, offering an illuminating look at one of our most fascinating faculties: our memory. The authors—two Norwegian sisters, one a neuropsychologist and the other an acclaimed writer—skillfully interweave history, research, and exceptional personal stories, taking readers on a captivating exploration of the evolving science of memory from its humble Renaissance beginnings up to the present day. They interview experts of all stripes, from the world’s top neuroscientists to famous novelists, from taxi drivers to quizmasters, to help explain how memory works, why it sometimes fails, and what we can do to improve it. Filled with cutting-edge research and nimble storytelling, the result is a charming—and memorable—adventure through human memory

30 review for Adventures in Memory: Exploring the Science and Secrets of Human Memory

  1. 5 out of 5

    Virginie

    So many interesting informations about this fascinating subject: the memory. Do you know that some people remember absolutely everything while others don't have any memories? I could go on and on! I kept retelling the anecdotes to my boyfriend because it was so enlightening. The two sisters (a scientific and a writer) succeeded to write a very interesting book. I really liked it! So many interesting informations about this fascinating subject: the memory. Do you know that some people remember absolutely everything while others don't have any memories? I could go on and on! I kept retelling the anecdotes to my boyfriend because it was so enlightening. The two sisters (a scientific and a writer) succeeded to write a very interesting book. I really liked it!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Biblibio

    When one sister is a neuroscientist and the other is a writer, you're pretty much guaranteed an awesome collaboration. The book is an interesting mix of anecdotes and studies about the human brain and memory, wrapped up in a well-written literary style that makes the whole reading experience surprisingly entertaining (as well as educational!). Because the science is still so sketchy, Diving for Seahorses definitely ends up feeling a little incomplete, but in the way that a door has been opened a When one sister is a neuroscientist and the other is a writer, you're pretty much guaranteed an awesome collaboration. The book is an interesting mix of anecdotes and studies about the human brain and memory, wrapped up in a well-written literary style that makes the whole reading experience surprisingly entertaining (as well as educational!). Because the science is still so sketchy, Diving for Seahorses definitely ends up feeling a little incomplete, but in the way that a door has been opened and now I can think about all sorts of new ideas. I quite enjoyed it and would love to see this get a wider audience.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Łukasz

    So the joke is that the book, despite being very pleasant, is hardly remarkable and thus very, well, forgettable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Furious Gazelle

    Diving for Seahorses is a collaboration between sisters: the writer and editor Hilde Ostby and the clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Ylva Ostby; a necessary team, as this book artfully explores the history of human knowledge regarding memory. The book takes its name from the hippocampus. As explained in the first pages, an Italian doctor named it the hippocampus (Latin for horse sea monster) back in 1564. This is the seahorse we’re diving for. This metaphor is stretched throughout the book (sometim Diving for Seahorses is a collaboration between sisters: the writer and editor Hilde Ostby and the clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Ylva Ostby; a necessary team, as this book artfully explores the history of human knowledge regarding memory. The book takes its name from the hippocampus. As explained in the first pages, an Italian doctor named it the hippocampus (Latin for horse sea monster) back in 1564. This is the seahorse we’re diving for. This metaphor is stretched throughout the book (sometimes a little too thin, but it works). This was an overall fascinating read. Anyone who has ever had an interest in learning more about the human brain, and of course specifically memory, will enjoy this book. Hilde is a beautiful writer though at times some of her words may have been lost in translation and there are instances that read too much like a textbook rather than a nonfiction work. There are wholly artistic portrayals of experiments- like when recreating a 1970s experiment to see if memory was tied to location by diving underwater and memorizing lists of words. “We will see with our own eyes how their brains have worked, linking words and seaweed and cold water together into the same network. But we’re still standing on the pier, while the February cold eats away into our woolen underwear. It’s anything but magical. (p.27)” She puts in magical descriptions while really bringing you into time and place. This serves her well whether talking about the present or taking the reader back to early renaissance discoveries about the brain. The clinical information is sometimes presented, well, clinically, and that was really my main complaint. There were points where I was really invested in the book and the anecdotes being presented– Henry Molaison’s life story was insane– and then they would dip into paragraphs that would sound more at home in a scientific journal, as though they were presenting research rather than telling a story. I understand that it is clinical information, and it would likely be less worthwhile without Ylva’s analysis, but since they were working together it could have been cleaned up. However, the overly dry sections were few and far between and Hilde has a talent for making even the decades (and in some cases, centuries) old stories seem present and tangible. They cover a lot of ground in this fairly slim novel and all of it was truly intriguing. Despite the clinical parts, they engage with many people who aren’t scientists- like, novelists, and memory masters- which really drives home that the human brain isn’t just “science” it’s you. There’s nothing more gripping than finding out what makes us tick. Review originally posted at https://thefuriousgazelle.com/2018/12...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    This book was full of interesting stories and facts about our memory. It provided great insight into the power of our memories and a different view of their purpose. I would definitely recommend this book!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Tibedo

    OK, interesting but a bit long winded

  7. 5 out of 5

    Leah Rachel von Essen

    Diving for Seahorses: Exploring the Science and Secrets of Human Memory by Hilde Østby and Ylva Østby was a fascinating book about the mysteries that scientists are still digging into around our memory and how it works. This is a well-written and deeply compelling book, easy to read, about the study of memory—both how we learned what we know now and what we are studying that we still don’t know. The most intriguing chapter for me was on false memory—on how we can ingrain false memories, on the i Diving for Seahorses: Exploring the Science and Secrets of Human Memory by Hilde Østby and Ylva Østby was a fascinating book about the mysteries that scientists are still digging into around our memory and how it works. This is a well-written and deeply compelling book, easy to read, about the study of memory—both how we learned what we know now and what we are studying that we still don’t know. The most intriguing chapter for me was on false memory—on how we can ingrain false memories, on the implications for the justice system that it can be easy to implant false memories into the human brain, both to elicit confessions and to influence witnesses. The chapter was packed with things I didn’t know about how our memory worked and how it reveals flaws in how we blindly trust witness and police officer recall, or even confessions, during trials. Unfortunately, I was also disappointed that this section failed to engage with prejudice and race and their impact on memory. If we’re discussing the possibility of remembering wrong, it should have been noted that if a witness sees black men as more likely to be criminals, they’ll be more likely to remember the criminal as black if they didn’t get a good look, or to agree and restructure their memory if the police suggest that the criminal wasn’t white. To bring up the Central Park Five but never mention the factor preconceptions and prejudice play in the construction of false memories seemed like a huge oversight. Overall, this book was readable, informative, and full of interesting anecdotes that I really enjoyed. I learned a lot, but was slightly disappointed by the failure to engage with the question of preconceptions in memory, and also was occasionally annoyed by the interjections of the authors themselves attempting to run experiments on their peers for fun—some of these yielded interesting results, but others I skimmed. It’s well-written and compelling. Diving for Seahorses comes out October 9 from Greystone Books.

  8. 4 out of 5

    sheila farrell

    Outstanding travel through the mind! I found this book in my search to learn more about dementia. It opened my eyes to the world of my childhood, youth, early and middle adulthood, my aging years and now the possible acceptance of dementia. What a mind blowing adventure I have been on, it has blown away all my anxieties and fears and given me joy in my journey from now to my future! A most unexpected outcome, but it has given me the courage to face whatever my future holds. Thank you .

  9. 5 out of 5

    Billy Curry

    An interesting look at how our brain works. The writer provided an informative narrative. There were some interesting parts to the books informal research with working professionals as well as some academic insights. I would like to have seen a little more discussion for effective application for the average person.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kurtbg

    A good book to read to make you think about memory, how it works, how it developed (out of need first) and how it’s applied to the aspects in contemporary life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Celeste

    I quite enjoyed this novel about memory. The case studies mentioned were fascinating, the writing was easy to follow if almost tangential at times, and the choices the authors made with respect to what about memory to discuss were not as expected to my delight. I absolutely adored the chapter The Elephant’s Graveyard, both due to the cleverness of the title and the actual content about the art of forgetting and it’s importance. The conversations between both sisters that were incorporated into th I quite enjoyed this novel about memory. The case studies mentioned were fascinating, the writing was easy to follow if almost tangential at times, and the choices the authors made with respect to what about memory to discuss were not as expected to my delight. I absolutely adored the chapter The Elephant’s Graveyard, both due to the cleverness of the title and the actual content about the art of forgetting and it’s importance. The conversations between both sisters that were incorporated into the novel were some of my favourite passages. And I found myself pleasantly intrigued that a lot if not most of the people interviewed for this story were (or at least appeared to be) Norwegian, providing an unique POV to assess memory from. My main gripe is that, at times, the transitions to connect ideas, whether they were trying to segue the more science heavy parts with the more literary aspects or just trying to progress the story along, were sometimes too convenient and sounded odd in their execution. I’m not sure if it’s a result of the translation or just due to my own personal preferences, but it pulled me out of the novel to a noticeable degree. But other than that, I definitely would recommend this to anyone curious about memory.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarai Mitnick

    I'm fascinated by the way memory and the perception of time work within our minds, and the ideas and studies I learned about from this book helped me better comprehend how some of this functions. I have a better understanding of not just the way memories are formed and used, but on related topics like learning and imagination. I did want a little more scientific depth in certain areas, and found myself having to search out other material to really understand some of the processes they describe – I'm fascinated by the way memory and the perception of time work within our minds, and the ideas and studies I learned about from this book helped me better comprehend how some of this functions. I have a better understanding of not just the way memories are formed and used, but on related topics like learning and imagination. I did want a little more scientific depth in certain areas, and found myself having to search out other material to really understand some of the processes they describe – like attention, the episodic buffer, the capacity of long term memory storage. I'm thankful this book gave me so many jumping off points, but the desire to be a bit light and poetic sometimes interfered with my complete understanding. The writing could be a bit long-winded, and the focus on topics like climate change at the end of the book didn't make a whole lot of sense to me in the context of the subject matter. Still, I'm glad I read it and I'm going to dig a bit deeper into some of the topics that especially interested me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A wonderfully clear and compassionate overview of memory science, an area I had almost no prior knowledge about. Some of of my favourite facts: - Mammal brains contain ‘grid cells’, which create a hexagonal co-ordinate map of the world around us. - The brain uses almost the same regions when imagining the future as remembering the past- the ‘default mode network’. This ‘mental time travel’ is something that helps us solve problems by imagining future scenarios using past experiences. - Some peop A wonderfully clear and compassionate overview of memory science, an area I had almost no prior knowledge about. Some of of my favourite facts: - Mammal brains contain ‘grid cells’, which create a hexagonal co-ordinate map of the world around us. - The brain uses almost the same regions when imagining the future as remembering the past- the ‘default mode network’. This ‘mental time travel’ is something that helps us solve problems by imagining future scenarios using past experiences. - Some people suffer from a lack of autobiographical memories, meaning they remember facts about themselves but can’t relive the emotions or sensations of their past experiences. I loved the style of the two sister authors, who seemed to perfectly complement each other’s areas of skill. The addition of a novelists eye for characters and story was perfect in a book about memory, which as they argue in the book is largely composed of stories we reconstruct about ourselves.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carole Yeaman

    I read lots of things on neurology: on-line and in magazines and books. Surprisingly, this book held lots of new findings -- new to me, anyway. It was published this year, so should be current (it seems to be). It is written in a style that clarifies and/or extends old facts as well. Took lots of notes, but may buy it after some consideration. Nice to have your sister as your co-worker - this might account for its lightness in tone.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pat Hodge

    A non-fiction book made so very absorbing by the joint authorship of the scientist and the writer. The science of memory and the history of it was presented for every reader to understand. There remains much to be learned about it. The last chapter is a comforting ending to complete the story of memory research. Bravo ladies! I’ll read this again. (Because I want to remember everything in the book!)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Thank you for the Christmas present, Jennifer! This book was a very accessible read about memories. The topics include how they are formed, forgotten, false memories, and how memory is linked to viewing the future. I liked the inclusion of research, case studies, and interviews with researchers, and non-researchers. The writing had a lot more personality than I’m used to for nonfiction, but I think that helped as I’m not super knowledgable about psychology or neurology.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anna van Koeverden

    3.5 stars. Easy to read and pretty interesting, but I was left feeling like I don't really understand how memory works any better than before I read the book - however I think that is largely to do with the fact that a lot of it is still unknown. Maybe the authors should revisit this work in another 10 years. 3.5 stars. Easy to read and pretty interesting, but I was left feeling like I don't really understand how memory works any better than before I read the book - however I think that is largely to do with the fact that a lot of it is still unknown. Maybe the authors should revisit this work in another 10 years.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Irene Allison

    Brilliantly written and full of fascinating details about memory's power and fragility, memory's ability to reach into the future, and memory's temptation to recreate what was never there. I found this book captivating, full of interesting anecdotes and metaphor. It has left me with a deeper appreciation of the magnificence, magnitude, and power of human memory. Brilliantly written and full of fascinating details about memory's power and fragility, memory's ability to reach into the future, and memory's temptation to recreate what was never there. I found this book captivating, full of interesting anecdotes and metaphor. It has left me with a deeper appreciation of the magnificence, magnitude, and power of human memory.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Jarche

    Cut out the last third of this book and I would have liked it a lot more. The last couple chapters seemed to lose the tight focus of earlier chapters, getting a bit more existential and memory-adjacent. But I enjoyed the description of seminal psychological studies on memory, the fake-memory stuff, and the focus on journaling and memory.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah de Jong

    Another book I wasn’t sure about at the beginning and ended up thoroughly enjoying. From trying to remember and trying to forget, from false memories to the specificity of brain training and on to imagination, creativity and thinking about the future. This book is easy to engage with and well worth the read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Trina

    At times interesting, at other times very frustrating for me because I have aphantasia and either SDAM or developmental amnesia. Quite a few times it drifts into talking about the importance of envisioning the future (or the past) and since this is not possible for me it was aggravating.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    A very warm and engrossing read. Occasionally falls into waffle but for the most part this was thoroughly enjoyable

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paulina

    3.5 stars. Engrossing most of the time, but at the same time I did not find that I've learned too much 3.5 stars. Engrossing most of the time, but at the same time I did not find that I've learned too much

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Long

    An uneven book, with tangents digressing from the focus on how our memory functions. For those with little knowledge in the area, it is an engaging read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alayne

    An interesting look at memory and how it works, and how much we still don't know about it. Well written, and well translated from Norse. Quite enjoyable. An interesting look at memory and how it works, and how much we still don't know about it. Well written, and well translated from Norse. Quite enjoyable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cheyne Nakamura

    A good read for those wanting to learn about the psychology of memory and learning, but pretty superficial for readers in the science field. Directed towards an non-STEM major type of reader.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Darius Hinks

    Fascinating look at how and why we remember things.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anna-Maria Wiśniewska

    These two girls described The Memory in such an easy and interesting way. It was nice to read

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carol Radovan

    Excellent in all aspects .. informative, credible, human and engaging.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen Martin

    Enormously interesting study of memory from neurological and psychological perspectives. Immensely readable.

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