Questions for In Pursuit of Memory


Before reading:

1. List three memories of yours. They can be of a skill you learned, an event you experienced, a face you recall or another type of memory.

2. How would you describe memory? What do you think the brain does when you “remember” something?

During reading:

1. Describe the type of memory problems patient “H.M.” experienced after undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy. What is his memory condition called?

2. What big finding about the brain and memory did scientists learn by studying H.M.’s mind?

3. Surgeons removed most of which part of H.M.’s brain during his surgery?

4. In what part of the brain are incoming memories received, sorted through, and then bundled together?

5. What is the name of the brain region that receives processed and bundled memories?

6. When describing memories, explain what an “association” is. Give an example of one you have.

7. Describe the two main types of memory. Which type could H.M. not form after his surgery?

8. How did Milner discover that H.M. could still form procedural memories?

9. What are synapses, and why are they important?

10. What strengthens synapses?

11. How efficient is the brain’s nerve cell communication?

12. What role does GABA play in relaying messages within the brain?

13. Do memories change over time? How did scientists discover this?

After reading:

1. Why is it important to understand that different parts of the brain are involved in various aspects of learning, memory and recall?

2. How important is learning when it comes to making memories? Can you have one without the other?


1. Do you think that brain surgeries that correct one problem but create another — like H.M.’s amnesia — are worth it? Would you undergo a brain operation that might leave you with memory problems? Explain your answer and how you arrived at it.

2. What types of problems would a person with impaired memory experience? Is our society set up to help people with such problems? Explain your answer with a real or likely example.

3. If memories can be altered, then how do we know which recollections are true and which are false?