The Memory Thief and the Secrets Behind How We Remember: A Medical Mystery

Lauren Aguirre. Pegasus, $28.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64313-652-3
Filmmaker Aguirre debuts with an insightful look at the inner workings of memory and the research of neurologist Jed Barash, who has for nearly a decade looked for a link between opioid abuse and memory damage. In 2012, Barash reviewed the MRI of a 22-year-old opiate overdose survivor whose hippocampus, “the place that holds the keys to memory,” had been completely obliterated. The experience launched Barash’s quest, which Aguirre embellishes with accounts of what is presently known about how memories are created and stored, a discussion of amnesia syndrome case studies that Barash believes are fentanyl-related, and a sobering look at the costs of the opioid crisis. Barash’s work with memory extends beyond opioids: his team also wondered, Aguirre writes, if their discoveries “could turn out to be a tiny piece of the giant puzzle that is Alzheimer’s disease.” Aguirre has a knack for explaining science in accessible detail, and paints a sympathetic and intimate picture of Barash through his tireless “years of study and obsession,” all the while illuminating the reality of former fentanyl users who struggle with profound amnesia. The blend of science and deeply felt humanity will leave readers thinking about this one long after they finish. Agent: Justin Brouckert, Aevitas Creative. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/09/2021
Release date: 06/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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