It’s tough to watch the struggle people face when these memories are torn from them but through my research I have learned that even in the most severe cases of memory loss it is often possible to trigger some episodic remembering. Experience and a growing body of evidence, suggests that this is most likely when an individual is cued by something that has been recorded in some way by themselves: a personal diary entry, a photo that they took, even a trivial piece of memorabilia. Even when these things are not powerful enough to provoke a memory, the fact that they were recorded by that individual means that they are far more valuable to them as a record of the past than anything anyone else could tell them.
So I have begun in my own way to preserve significant moments in my life. I don’t have time to keep a regular diary but I have a book in which I make ad-hoc entries and I also archive little bits of correspondence. I have a little scrapbook for tickets or programmes from concerts and events, a box to put little bits of memorabilia in and of course the usual selection of photos and videos. This is all done on a fairly modest scale and maybe many other people already do this but I certainly didn’t and I have begun to feel a sense of security knowing that on whatever scale my memory might one day fail me, I will still have the means to try and piece together an autobiography that comes from me and belongs to me.
Catherine Loveday is a Principal Lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Westminster. She has a long standing research interest in the neuropsychology of memory.
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