Memory remains elusive, but the search continues | Science News


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Editor's Note

Memory remains elusive, but the search continues

1:35pm, January 24, 2018

In Theaetetus, Plato likened memory to a wax tablet, which would adopt the image of whatever was impressed upon it. Aristotle is said to have called memory “the scribe of the soul.” Others have viewed memory as a stomach, storehouse or switchboard, while acknowledging that it sometimes seems like a leaky bucket.

St. Augustine and Robert Hooke also thought deeply about memory. But not until the late 1800s did a German psychologist by the name of Hermann Ebbinghaus pioneer the study of memory in an experimental way. To research memory in isolation, Ebbinghaus used himself as a subject. After coming up with a list of nonsense syllables, he memorized series of different lengths, uncovering patterns in the time it takes to learn, relearn and forget.

Well over a century later, memory is far from understood. When former

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