Memory – 2005-2006 Annual Theme

2005-2006 theme

Suzanne Corkin

corkin poster finalProfessor Emerita, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Permanent Present Tense

Tuesday, April 22, 2014       
Stern Center, Great Room, 7 p.m.

Relying on 55 years of behavioral and imaging studies, Corkin shows that short-term, long-term, declarative, and nondeclarative capacities of memory rely on different brain circuits.  The case of Henry Molaison, who at age 27 underwent an experimental brain operation that left him in dense amnesia with a preserved intellect, will be discussed in some detail.  A book sale and signing will follow.

This event is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Departments of Biology and Psychology.

Corkin PicBiography (provided by the speaker)

Suzanne Corkin is professor of neuroscience, emerita in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. She arrived at MIT in the fall of 1964, having just received her Ph.D. in comparative and physiological psychology from McGill University. Her first accomplishment was establishing the Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory at the newly opened Clinical Research Center. She joined the faculty in 1981 as an associate professor. Corkin’s research over the last 48 years has focused on the study of patients with neurological disease, with the goal of linking specific cognitive  processes, particularly memory, to discrete brain circuits. She described the long-term consequences of head injury in World War II and Korean War veterans, and the safety and efficacy of a psychosurgical procedure, cingulotomy, in patients with medication resistant psychiatric disease. Her subsequent research focused on the neural underpinnings of age-related degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer and Parkinson. She and her colleagues developed behavioral tasks that elucidated the nature and severity of individual Parkinson and Alzheimer patients’ cognitive and psychiatric deficits, and innovative neuroanatomical labeling tools for visualizing brain regions that are targeted by PD or AD pathophysiology. Corkin also examined the cognitive neuroscience of healthy aging, combining behavioral testing with magnetoencephalography, fMRI, and MRI methods to characterize the neurobiological and information processing mechanisms underlying decreased cognitive control in healthy aging. She is well known for her investigation of the famous amnesic patient, H.M., whom she met in 1962 and studied until his death in 2008. Corkin’s book, Permanent Present Tense, was published in May 2013.

Corkin is a fellow of the Montreal Neurological Institute, the American Psychological Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She  received the David Wallace Medal from the Australian Association of Gerontology, the Smith College Medal, a MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health, and the Baltes Distinguished Research Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, Division on Aging. She received the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Undergraduate Advising Award in 2011.

Video of the Lecture



Elizabeth Loftus – "Joseph Priestley Award"


Distinguished Professor,
University of California, Irvine

What’s the Matter with Memory?

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7:30 p.m.

Sponsored by the Department of Psychology.

People have been led to remember non-existent events from the recent past as well as non-existent events from their childhood. They can be led to falsely believe that they had experiences that would have been highly traumatic had they actually happened. False beliefs have consequences for people, affecting later thoughts, intentions, and behaviors.

Biography (provided by the speaker)

Elizabeth Loftus, distinguished professor at the University of California, Irvine, holds positions in the Departments of Psychology & Social Behavior, and Criminology, Law & Society.  She is also a professor of law.  She has a faculty appointment in the Department of Cognitive Sciences and is a fellow of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.   Formerly, she was professor of psychology and adjunct professor of law at the University of Washington, Seattle, where she taught for 29 years.    She received her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University. Since then, she has published 22 books and over 450 scientific articles. Her 4th book, Eyewitness Testimony, won a National Media Award (Distinguished Contribution) from the American Psychological Foundation. One of her most widely read books, The Myth of Repressed Memory (co-authored with Katherine Ketcham) was published by St. Martin’s Press and has been translated into Dutch, Taiwanese, French, German, Japanese and other foreign languages.

Loftus has been an expert witness or consultant in hundreds of cases, including the McMartin PreSchool Molestation case, the Hillside Strangler, the Abscam cases, the trial of Oliver North, the trial of the officers accused in the Rodney King beating, the Menendez brothers, the Bosnian War trials in the Hague, the Oklahoma Bombing case, and litigation involving Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, and the Duke University Lacrosse players.  Loftus also she has worked on numerous cases involving allegations of “repressed memories”, such as those involving George Franklin of San Mateo, California, Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, and Gary Ramona of Napa, California.

Loftus’s research of the last 20 years has focused on human memory, eyewitness testimony and also on courtroom procedure. Her work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation. In 1983, she was invited to present this work to the Royal Society of London. She has received six honorary doctorates for her research, the first in 1982 from Miami University (Ohio), the second in 1990 from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and the third in 1994 from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York – an honorary doctorate of laws. Her 4th honorary doctorate, from the University of Portsmouth in England, was awarded in l998;  the 5th, from the University of Haifa is Israel, was awarded in 2005; the 6th from the University of Oslo was awarded in 2008. She served as the 1984 President of the Western Psychological Association, and again as President during 2004-05.   She was the 1985 President of the American Psychology-Law Society (Div 41 of APA), and  the 1988 President of Division 3 (Experimental) of the APA. Finally, she was President of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) during 1998-1999.

In addition to the honorary degrees, Loftus has received numerous awards and honors for her research. In 1995 she received an award from the American Academy of Forensic Psychology – their Distinguished Contributions to Forensic Psychology Award. In 1996 she received the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology (AAAPP) Award for Distinguished Contribution to Basic and Applied Scientific Psychology. In 1997 she received from APS the James McKeen Cattell Fellow (“for a career of significant intellectual contributions to the science of psychology in the area of applied psychological research”).  She received the William James Fellow Award from the APS, 2001 (for “ingeniously and rigorously designed research studies…that yielded clear objective evidence on difficult and controversial questions.”).  

 In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences bestowed upon her the inaugural Henry & Bryna David Lectureship (an award for “application of the best social and behavioral sciences research to public policy issues”)  The article that she wrote in conjunction with this award was subsequently selected for inclusion in The Best American Science and Nature Writing. In 2003, the same year that she received the APA Distinguished Scientific Award for Applications of Psychology, she was also elected to membership of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences,  and the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences.   In 2004 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.    In 2005, she won the Grawemeyer Prize in Psychology (to honor ideas of “great significance and impact”), and with it came a gift of $200,000. Also in 2005 she was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which is Scotland’s national academy of sciences and letters, established in 1783.   Also in 2005, she received the Lauds and Laurels Faculty Achievement Award less than three years after arriving at the University of California, Irvine.   The award “recognizes a faculty member who has achieved great professional prominence in their field for their contributions to research, teaching, and public service….a role model and has contributed to the excellence of UCI.”  She was the 9th recipient of the award in the history of the University.   In 2006, she was elected to the American Philosophical Society, which is the oldest learned society in the United States, Est. 1745 by Benjamin Franklin.  In 2009 she received the Distinguished Contributions to Psychology and Law Award from the American Psychology-Law Society.

Perhaps one of the most unusual signs of recognition of the impact of Loftus’s research came in a study published by the Review of General Psychology.   The study identified the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, and not surprisingly Freud, Skinner, and Piaget are at the top of that list.  Loftus was #58, and the top ranked woman on the list.

Visit for more information about the Joseph Priestley Award and a listing of past recipients.
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Erika Doss

University of Notre DameErica Doss poster

Memorial Mania: Issues of Commemoration and Affect in Contemporary America

Thursday, March 20, 2008
7:00 p.m. – Stern Center, Great Room

Concentrating especially on recent 9/11 memorials, war memorials, and on issues such as fear, terror, security, and tribute. This program considers how “memorial mania” has altered the style and substance of America’s contemporary public sphere and assumptions of national identity.

Issue in Context

Since the Revolutionary War, the building of American nationhood has involved the design and presentation of war memorials. The memorials that have been built to commemorate the sacrifices of soldiers from the Civil War to the Vietnam War have taken on new cultural orientations and styles. In the wake of 9/11, there has been great passion for memorial design, and heated disagreements about how to best honor those lost in the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Arguments about how to make use of the land that once held the great monuments of New York’s financial district represent a new generation of memorial mania. Professor Doss will address the influences of historical perspectives on the planning, organizing, and constructing of memorials. She will also discuss how fear, terror, security, and the explosion of modern art influence American memorial taste and national identity.

About the Speaker

Professor Erika Doss is the recipient of the 98th Distinguished Research Lectureship from the Council on Research and Creative Work in the Graduate Program at the University of Colorado. She was also the 2005-2006 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark. An expert on American Culture and Modern Art, Professor Doss has studied recent developments of tastes in regards to memorials and commemorations in The United States.
Professor Doss is a Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Colorado. She obtained her Ph.D in art history and American studies from the University of Minnesota. A former director of the American studies program at U. Colorado, Doss is also a well published author and editor. Her recent publications include: Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press), “Public Art Controversy: Cultural Expression and Civic Debate” Americans for the Arts Monographs Series (Washington, DC: Americans for the Arts), and Memorial Mania: Self, Nation, and the Culture of Commemoration in Contemporary America.

Suggested Readings

Twentieth-Century American Art (2002)
Looking at Life Magazine (editor, 2001)
Elvis Culture: Fans, Faith, and Image (1999)
Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (1995)
Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism (1991)
She is currently writing the book Memorial Mania: Self, Nation, and the Culture of Commemoration in Contemporary America.
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The Making of Memories

Thursday, March 27, 2006
Common Hour
The Making of Memories
Weiss Center, Rubendall Recital Hall, 12:00 p.m.

Issue in Context
Memory is an essential quality of being human. Our individual and collective sense of identity depends on the workings of memory. Until recently, memory was studied largely as an aspect of philosophy. Modern technological advances make it possible for neurologists to examine memory’s biological operations, including long-term potentiation, (LTP). LTP occurs when one nerve cell stimulated by another, remembers the stimulation, and forms a cellular bond. This transformation of the nerve cell is essential to the storage of memory. The brain contains over 100 billion nerve cells, each with thousands of synapses. Whenever a memory is formed, some of these synapses change. As they are continually stimulated their surfaces are permanently altered forming connection points with other nerve cells. These contact points are the foundation for the contact and chemical alterations in the nerve cells that serve as memory units.

Cultural memory is a facet of every society. It is passed down collectively through generations, preserved in forms such as theatre, arts, literature, music and ritual. As an illustration of cultural memory, this event presents music and text from a Holocaust memorial, “A Survivor from Warsaw .” An exiled German-Jew recalls resistance to the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto. A site specific installation of the work of an Afro-Cuban artist will demonstrate the construction of a cultural and diasporic memory. Also, the issue of memory’s powerful influence on the first half-second of perceptual processing will be addressed. Additional focus will be on autobiographical memories, emotional memories, the accuracy of some of these constructs, and ways in which we often produce and cling to ‘false’ memories.

About the Speakers
Dr. Teresa Barber (moderator) is a member of the Psychology Department. She received her doctorate from the University of California , Berkeley . Barber is a biological psychologist and her teaching focuses on how the nervous system relates to behavior. Her research centers on the mechanisms and processes dealing with the storage of information in the brain, particularly how pathological states of memory storage relate to how the brain stores memory.

Dr. Richard Abrams is also a member of the Psychology Department. He received his doctorate from the University of Washington . Abrams is a cognitive psychologist whose teaching and research interests include the history of psychology, unconscious cognition, as well as sleep and dreams.

Jerry Philogene is a member of the American Studies Department. She is currently working on her doctoral dissertation at New York University . Her research focuses on how class, gender, ethnicity, and race intersect in visual and popular culture. Her teaching centers on black cultural and identity politics as well as interdisciplinary American cultural history.

Dr. Kim Rogers is a member of the History Department. She received her master’s degree in 1976 and her doctorate in 1982 from the University of Minnesota . Her teaching centers on gender and family history, U.S. History, and urban America . Her research interests include oral history, life-course analysis, and biography and autobiography.

Dr. Amy Wlodarski is a member of the Music Department. She serves as the conductor of the College Choir. She earned her doctorate in musicology for the Eastman School of Music. Her research focuses on how musical reception and composition is influenced by memory, particularly in political works and musical memorials.

Related Links
• Photos and Information about the Creation of Memory
• MIT News Office-Memory Formation Mechanism
• Cultural Memory
• False Memory Creation


The Way We Were? 'Memories' of Traditional Marriage and Family Life

February 23, 2006
The Way We Were? ‘Memories’ of Traditional Marriage and Family Life
Weiss Center, Rubendall Recital Hall, 12:00 p.m.
The Way We Were

Issue in Context
During the 19th century, the age of sexual consent in some states was as low as nine or ten; alcoholism and drug abuse were more rampant than at present. During the “family-oriented” 1950s, teenage childbearing peaked. These facts belie the popular belief that traditional values of marriage and family thrived before recent times.

Through her research, Stephanie Coontz has revealed that the US is undergoing a “distressful and disorganizing social and economic transformation made all the more difficult by our romanticizing of a past that never existed as we choose to remember it. The so-called traditional family is no longer the norm and should not be made the ideal. Single-parent families cannot be considered abnormal anymore, and divorce is not an excuse for problematic children.”

Coontz believes that the ills of society most often receive the blame for the breakdown of the “traditional” marriage. She argues that the strengths of more diverse forms of family life must be recognized in order to solve these ills.

About the Speaker
Stephanie Coontz is currently a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College and director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families. She has published extensively on marriage and family life and is the author of several highly praised books such as: The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap and Marriage, a History: from Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage.

Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Harper’s, Vogue, LIFE as well as in such academic and professional journals as The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Journal of Marriage and Family . She has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Crossfire,” CNN’s “Talk Back Live,” and “CBS This Morning.”

A former Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Coontz has also taught at Kobe University in Japan and the University of Hawaii at Hilo . Her honors include the Council on Contemporary Families Visionary Leadership Award, the Dale Richmond Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Friend of the Family award from the Illinois Council on Family Relations.

Stephanie Coontz received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1966 and her master’s at the University of Washington in 1970.

Related Links

Memory, Counter-Memory, and the End of the Monument after 9/11

Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Memory, Counter-Memory, and the End of the Monument after 9/11
Stern Center, Great Room, 7:00 p.m.


Issue in Context
Constructing monuments to commemorate tragedies such as the Holocaust and 9/11 can trigger intense debate as designers strive to represent the collective memory of a grieving nation. Much of the controversy stems from the aesthetic and political dilemmas involved in creating national monuments. The United States and Germany recently faced such predicaments while constructing the World Trade Center Site Memorial in New York City and the National Holocaust Memorial in Berlin . The memorials in both countries strive to convey the full spectrum of citizens’ sentiments, but each monument has received criticism for falling short. Since historical events are open to so many interpretations, one wonders if it is possible to construct a monument that captures the full range of emotion and memory.

About the Speaker
James E. Young is a renowned scholar of Holocaust remembrance and an internationally recognized expert on memorial architecture. He was appointed to the selection committees for both the National Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and the World Trade Center Site Memorial in New York City .

Young has written numerous articles concerning national memory which have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and The Chicago Tribune. His findings have been published worldwide in six languages. Young is the recipient of many awards and fellowships, and was appointed as editor-in-chief of the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization. He is currently professor of English and Judaic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is chair of the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies.

Related Links
• James E. Young’s Biography
• World Trade Center Site Memorial
• National Holocaust Memorial

Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief

Thursday , October 6, 2005
Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief
Stern Center, Great Room 7:00 P.M.

Brain Science

Issue in Context
Many minds of the 19th century viewed religion as mere superstition which an increasingly enlightened society would soon discard. Yet today, in the most technologically and scientifically enlightened age, religious observance remains strong in the United States: church affiliation has never been higher, and more than seventy percent of the American population claims to believe in God.
Dr. Andrew Newberg, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, examines whether or not religion is the product of biology, a kind of neurological illusion. Do our brains function in such a way as to make God seem not only real, but reachable?
Together with the late Dr. Eugene d’Aquili, Dr. Newberg conducted research using advanced imaging techniques to gain a further understanding of what occurs inside the brains of Buddhist and Franciscan nuns at prayer. What they discovered was that intensely focused spiritual contemplation triggers an alteration in the activity of the brain that leads one to perceive transcendent religious experiences as solid, tangible reality. This discovery suggests that God seems to be hard-wired into the brain.
Such compelling research and evidence raises a very controversial debacle: whether or not God was created by, or is the creator of, the brain.

About the Speaker
Dr. Andrew Newberg is currently a professor in the Department of Radiology and Psychiatry at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and is a staff physician in nuclear medicine. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1993. He did his training in Internal Medicine at the Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia, serving as chief resident in his final year.

Following his internal medicine training, he completed a fellowship in nuclear medicine in the Division of Nuclear Medicine, Department of Radiology, at the University of Pennsylvania. He has actively pursued a number of neuroimaging research projects which have included the study of aging and dementia, epilepsy, and other neurological and psychiatric disorders. His research has focused not only on specific disorders, but on various activation studies designed to explore how brain function is associated with various mental states. He has published numerous articles and chapters on the topics of brain function and neuroimaging and has presented his research at both national and international meetings.

He also has made education an important part of his career, participating on education and
curriculum committees both at the University of Pennsylvania and at Graduate Hospital. He has trained medical students, internal medicine residents, radiology residents, and nuclear medicine fellows. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Nuclear Medicine, and Nuclear Cardiology.