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Artist’s amnesia could help unlock mysteries of memory

New book looks at what case study could reveal about the brain

By
8:00am, February 4, 2017
Lonni Sue Johnson word search

MEMORABLE ART  Despite having amnesia, artist Lonni Sue Johnson can still create art, including illustrated word searches (one shown). Researchers are studying Johnson to learn more about how the brain forms and stores memories.

The Perpetual Now
Michael Lemonick
Doubleday, $27.95

Generations of gurus have exhorted, “Live in the moment!” For Lonni Sue Johnson, that’s all she can do. In 2007, viral encephalitis destroyed Johnson’s hippocampus. Without that crucial brain structure, Johnson lost most of her memories of the past and can’t form new ones. She literally lives in the present.

In The Perpetual Now, science journalist Michael Lemonick describes Johnson’s world and tells the story of her life before her illness, in which she was an illustrator (she produced many New Yorker covers), private pilot and accomplished amateur violist. Johnson can’t remember biographical details of her own life, recall anything about history or remember

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