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 memory illuminates these discussions, with implications for everything from understanding Alzheimer's disease to the technology of Artificial Intelligence.
You'll also learn about the research behind what Quian Quiroga coined "Jennifer Aniston Neurons," cells in the human brain that are responsible for representing specific concepts, such as recognizing a certain celebrity's face. The discovery of these neurons opens new windows into the workings of human memory.
In this accessible, fascinating look at the science of remembering, discover how we turn perceptions into memories, how language shapes our experiences, and the crucial role forgetting plays in human recollection. You'll see how electricity, chemistry, and abstraction combine to form something more than the human brain, the human mind. And you'll gain surprising insight into what our brains can tell us about who we are.
The Forgetting Machine takes us on a journey through science and science fiction, philosophy and identity, using what we know about how we remember (and forget) to explore the very roots of what makes us human.
About the Author
Rodrigo Quian Quiroga holds a Research Chair at the University of Leicester, UK. He is the director of the Centre for Systems Neuroscience and the Head of Bioengineering at the University of Leicester. He graduated in Physics at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and obtained his PhD in Applied Mathematics at the University of Luebeck, Germany. Before joining the University of Leicester in 2004, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Research Center Juelich, Germany, a Sloan fellow at the California Institute of Technology, USA and had short stays at RIKEN, Japan and the University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. He has held visiting positions at the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology in Magdeburg, the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy, the University of California Los Angeles, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Buenos Aires, and CONICET. He obtained a young investigator award by the American Epilepsy Society, in 2010 a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award and in 2014 he was selected as one of the 10 UK RISE Leaders in Science and Engineering.
His main research interest is on the study of the principles of visual perception and memory. He discovered what has been named "Concept cells" or "Jennifer Aniston neurons", neurons in the human brain that play a key role in memory formation, a finding that was selected as one of the top 100 scientific stories of 2005 by Discover Magazine. His work has been published in about 100 research articles and has received world-wide media attention, including articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Scientific American, New Scientist, The Independent, and others. He is also the author of Borges and Memory, linking the thoughts of Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges with memory research in Neuroscience.
"Rodrigo Quian Quiroga is one of those rare computational neuroscientists who really knows how to bring complex and abstract concepts to a popular audience. This charming and informative book explains current understanding of how memories are encoded in the brain in elegant prose."
—Alison Abbott, Nature magazine
"A noted brain scientist takes the reader on an exciting whirlwind tour of vision and memory. "
—Christof Koch, Chief Scientist and President, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle
"If you wish to take a fascinating and memorable journey into the riddles of human perception and memory, The Forgetting Machine is the gate to enter."
—Yadin Dudai, professor, Weizmann Institute of Science and New York University