Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front
Lines of Memory Research
by Sue Halpern, New York: Harmony Books, 2008
Reviewed by Ulf Goebel
Alzheimer's disease (AD), feared more than
cancer, leaves us strangers to ourselves.
Sue Halpern's father showed every sign of AD, but his doctor
said normal aging caused his dementia. Puzzled by this, she decided
after his death to discover all she could about aging and cognitive
decline. To get through "the hyperbole and hype and promises and
platitudes that now attend most public discussions about memory,"
she sought "to find out what the molecular biologists and cell
biologists and biochemists and geneticists knew."
She spent "time in brain-scanning suites and chemistry labs and
mice nurseries and hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, and
attending scientific meetings," and she subjected herself to brain
scans and "neuropsych" tests, scouring the literature, but her
research was basically structured around interviews with Scott
Small, a cognitive neuroscientist whose main interest is the
hippocampus, seat of short-term memory, where deterioration of the
dentate gyrus causes "normal dementia" of the entorhinal cortex,
Brains destroyed by AD are choked with plaques and tangles, but
rather than causing the disease, they may actually be the brain's
defense against it. Small is looking deep within the cells for
possible triggers of AD, hunting down molecules and sorting
Except for aerobic exercise, nothing so far seems to help slow
down aging. Drugs like Aricept are stopgaps. Resort to herbal
remedies is an act of faith. But why not. Eating a couple of
handfuls of blueberries a day may be our "version of Pascal's
wager." At my age I'll try anything.
- Ulf Goebel is a German instructor at Butler University.