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The Forgetting Machine: Memory, Perception, and the "Jennifer Aniston Neuron"

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  46 ratings  ·  9 reviews
If we lose our memories, are we still ourselves? Is identity merely a collection of electrical impulses? What separates us from animals, or from computers?

From Plato to Westworld, these questions have fascinated and befuddled philosophers, artists, and scientists for centuries. In The Forgetting Machine, neuroscientist Rodrigo Quian Quiroga explains how the mechanics of me
Published October 1st 2017 by Benbella Books Inc.
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Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-nonfiction
Not only do I wish more scientists would write books to educate laypeople, I wish more scientists would write books as informative and accessible as The Forgetting Machine: Memory, Perception, and the “Jennifer Aniston Neuron” by Rodrigo Quian Quiroga. This highly-credentialed, multi-degreed, computational neuroscientist has written a fascinating book about the vastness and limitations of human memory. Viewed by most as a complex subject, Quiroga has skillfully dismantled this complexity into ve ...more
Oct 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
The Forgetting Machine by Rodrigo Quian Quiroga is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early October.

Unfortunately, Quiroga writes in more of a lit/research review style than really telling us all something new about cognitive psychology, neuroscience, memory, visual acuity, a human's capacity for intelligence, and the advent of android thought. Where he had me, though, was his own personal sentiment about the perishability of memory and the somewhat depressing thought about how someone's whol
K De
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Professor Quiroga gives a concise overview of how memory is being understood through neuroscience. It is clearly explained and very interesting in how neuroscience is grappling with the physical structure of the brain in order to understand how memory is truly a part of being human.
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Mostly this book is about the brain, but the part about the memory and perception is absolutely uptodate and I found it clear explained and particularly interesting, as I had no idea there was an honest to God Jennifer Aniston neuron!

La maggior parte di questo libro é dedicata al cervello ed alle varie modalità di processare le informazioni, poi c'é la parte sulla memoria che é fantastica ed aggiornatissima, dove ho scoperto che esiste veramente un neurone Jennifer Aniston!

Ginger Campbell
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
In this book Dr Quiroga explains the science behind the so-called "Jennifer Aniston Neuron." The implications of this discovery are actually quite fascinating.

I talked with Dr. Quiroga earlier this year on my Brain Science podcast.

Learn more at
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won a free copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads.

This book was not quite what I expected, but great nonetheless. It is less about memory itself and more about how the brain works and by implication what a memory actually is. Engaging style and very light read even in popular science category. Fun examples and good descriptions of experiments. Also has a historical bent as it describes memory through the ages.
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May 27, 2018
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May 01, 2018
Thomas Lukaschewski
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Mar 22, 2018
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Dec 03, 2018
This changes your way of looking at the world.
Dan Contreras
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May 18, 2018
Benjamin Taddesse
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Jan 03, 2018
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book which covers a broad range of topics to answer the question "how do we know who we are?". Quiroga has done his homework and builds a well-informed case. I found many interesting and inspiring quotes from this book - the number of highlights in the book alone could be made into its own workbook!
Don't read this book without a way to take notes! I think this is a good one to read if you are reflecting on your life and what you want out of your future. Great read!
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Brain Science Pod...: BS 141 Rodrigo Quian Quiroga 1 4 Jan 30, 2018 11:02AM  

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“We remember almost nothing. The idea that we remember a great deal of the subtleties and details of our experiences, as if we are playing back a movie, is nothing more than an illusion, a construct of the brain. And this is perhaps the greatest secret in the study of memory: the astounding truth that, starting from very little information, the brain generates a reality and a past that make us who we are, despite the fact that this past, this collection of memories, is extremely slippery; despite the fact that the mere act of bringing a memory to our consciousness inevitably changes it; despite the fact that what underlies my awareness of a unique, immutable “self” that makes me who I am is constantly changing.” 0 likes
“What matters is not how much we remember, but how we remember. As I see it, intelligence is closely related to creativity, to noticing something new, to making unexpected connections between disparate facts. Isaac Newton’s genius consisted of realizing that what makes an apple fall from a tree is the same force that keeps the moon in its orbit around the earth: gravity. Centuries later, in his general theory of relativity, Albert Einstein uncovered another astounding relationship when he noted that the effect of the force of gravity is indistinguishable from the acceleration of a spaceship in outer space or the tug we feel in an elevator when it starts to move. Attempting to memorize facts by rote does nothing more than distract our attention from what really matters, the deeper understanding required to establish meaning and notice connections—that which constitutes the basis of intelligence. The method of loci does nothing to help us understand the things we memorize; it is just a formula for memorization that, in fact, competes against comprehension. As we saw in the previous chapter, Shereshevskii was able to memorize a list effortlessly using the method of loci, but was incapable of grasping its content enough to pick out the liquids from the list or, on another occasion, to realize that he had memorized a sequence of consecutive numbers. Using the method of loci to store these lists left Shereshevskii no room to make any of the categorizations that we perform unconsciously (person, animal, liquid, etc.) or to find basic patterns in a list of numbers. To be creative and intelligent, we must go beyond merely remembering and undertake completely different processes: we must assimilate concepts and derive meaning. Focusing on memorization techniques limits our ability to understand, classify, contextualize, and associate. Like memorization, these processes also help to secure memories, but in a more useful and elaborate way; these are precisely the processes that should be developed and encouraged by the educational system.” 0 likes
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