Chasing Memory with romantic science

Frontal Cortex has just alerted me to a compelling four-part series on the quest to find the molecular basis of memory in Prof Gary Lynch’s neuroscience lab.

It’s not only an account of the science behind the research, but also of the characters and human drives of the people involved.

Old school Russian neuropsychologist A.R. Luria wrote case studies of brain injured patients that not only described the neuroscience of their disorders, but also described the people in such sensitive detail that you really felt you got to know them.

He called this ‘romantic science’ – something which Oliver Sacks cites as a major inspiration for his own work.

These LA Times pieces are not about brain injury, but they have the same quality of human passion intertwined with the story of scientific discovery.

The first time I spoke with the neuroscientist Gary Lynch, the conversation went something like this:

Me: I’m interested in spending time in a laboratory like yours, where the principal focus is the study of memory. I’d like to explain how memory functions and fails, and why, and use the work in the lab as a means to illustrate how we know what we know.

Lynch: You’d be welcome to come here. This would actually be a propitious time to be in the lab.

Me: Why’s that?

Lynch: Because we’re about to nail this mother to the door.

Link to four-part LA Times special ‘Chasing Memory’.

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