Virtual Event: Lauren Aguirre
The Memory Thief:
And the Secrets Behind How We Remember:
A Medical Mystery
in conversation with DEBORAH BLUM
June 22, 2021
7:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes award-winning science journalist LAUREN AGUIRRE for a discussion of her book The Memory Thief: And the Secrets Behind How We Remember: A Medical Mystery. She will be joined in conversation by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist DEBORAH BLUM, author of The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of The Memory Thief on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About The Memory Thief
How could you lose your memory overnight, and what would it mean? The day neurologist Jed Barash sees the baffling brain scan of a young patient with devastating amnesia marks the beginning of a quest to answer those questions. First detected in a cluster of stigmatized opioid overdose victims in Massachusetts with severe damage to the hippocampus—the brain’s memory center—this rare syndrome reveals how the tragic plight of the unfortunate few can open the door to advances in medical science.
After overcoming initial skepticism that investigating the syndrome is worth the effort—and that fentanyl is the likely culprit—Barash and a growing team of dedicated doctors explore the threat that people who take opioids chronically as prescribed to treat severe pain may gradually put their memories at risk. At the same time, they begin to grasp the potential for this syndrome to shed light on the most elusive memory thief of all—Alzheimer’s disease.
Through the prism of this fascinating story, Aguirre goes on to examine how researchers tease out the fundamental nature of memory and the many mysteries still to be solved. Where do memories live? Why do we forget most of what happens in a day but remember some events with stunning clarity years later? How real are our memories? And what purpose do they actually serve?
Perhaps the greatest mystery in The Memory Thief is why Alzheimer’s has evaded capture for a century even though it afflicts tens of millions around the world and lies in wait for millions more. Aguirre deftly explores this question and reveals promising new strategies and developments that may finally break the long stalemate in the fight against this dreaded disease.
But at its core, Aguirre’s genre-bending and deeply-reported book is about paying attention to the things that initially don’t make sense—like the amnestic syndrome—and how these mysteries can move science closer to an ever-evolving version of the truth.
Praise for The Memory Thief
“Lauren Aguirre has crafted an intimate tale of sweeping importance, one that travels the mysterious pathways of the mind. This is a story of human frailty, heroic perseverance and, ultimately, hope. She gained the trust of all involved—the dogged researchers and the patients grasping at their fading memories. The result is a deeply reported, remarkable narrative.” —David Baron, author of American Eclipse
"The Memory Thief presents a frightening insight into the lives of the victims of sudden and debilitating memory loss. By intertwining their stories with those of the doctors and scientists trying to help them, Aguirre exposes the difficulties of researching radical ideas in a vastly complex medical world. Emerging from the stories is an engrossing overview of how memory works, and fails, offering invaluable lessons about what we can do to protect our own memories." —Lynne Kelly, author of The Memory Code
"Truly a masterful synthesis of a large and diverse body of research and clinical lore. Aguirre beautifully brings to life the people behind the research in this excellent and compelling story of medical discovery. I greatly enjoyed reading The Memory Thief." —Bradford C. Dickerson, director of the Frontotemporal Disorders Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.
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