Science, Tech & Environment

How we remember

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"The Son of Man" by Rene Magritte

On "To the Best of Our Knowledge," stories about memory: Sue Halpern reports on current thinking about how memory works; Jill Price has a remarkable memory -- she can’t forget anything that’s ever happened to her; Christopher Taylor played all 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas from memory; and Guy Beiner studies folk memories of historical events.

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Sue Halpern spent five years subjecting herself to every memory test and brain imaging technique she could find. She reports on all of it in her book "Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research." She tells Anne Strainchamps to save her money. Nothing you can swallow will do any good, but exercise works. Halpern is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Jill Price has been working with Dr. James McGaugh at the University of California at Irvine for several years. Price has total recall of her life from the age of about 14. They still don't know why, but hope to understand someday and use that knowledge to help other people. Jill Price's memoir is called "The Woman Who Can't Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science." Bart Davis is her co-author.

Christopher Taylor is on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin School of Music and concertizes around the world. He talks with Jim Fleming about his recent series on concerts where he performed all 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas, from memory. The conversation is lavishly illustrated with excerpts from the concert recordings. They specifically address how a performer approaches learning such a large amount of music.

Historian Guy Beiner is interested in how folk memory of events differs from the historical record. His most recent book is called "Remembering the Year of the French: Irish Folk History and Social Memory." He talks with Steve Paulson about how the French invasion of Ireland in 1789 is still regarded as of earth-shattering importance in some towns in Western Ireland.