A Sense of Self: Memory, the Brain, and Who We Are (Paperback)
How do our brains store—and then conjure up—past experiences to make us who we are?
A twinge of sadness, a rush of love, a knot of loss, a whiff of regret. Memories have the power to move us, often when we least expect it, a sign of the complex neural process that continues in the background of our everyday lives. This process shapes us: filtering the world around us, informing our behavior and feeding our imagination.
Psychiatrist Veronica O’Keane has spent many years observing how memory and experience are interwoven. In this rich, fascinating exploration, she asks, among other things: Why can memories feel so real? How are our sensations and perceptions connected with them? Why is place so important in memory? Are there such things as “true” and “false” memories? And, above all, what happens when the process of memory is disrupted by mental illness? O’Keane uses the broken memories of psychosis to illuminate the integrated human brain, offering a new way of thinking about our own personal experiences.
Drawing on poignant accounts that include her own experiences, as well as what we can learn from insights in literature and fairytales and the latest neuroscientific research, O’Keane reframes our understanding of the extraordinary puzzle that is the human brain and how it changes during its growth from birth to adolescence and old age. By elucidating this process, she exposes the way that the formation of memory in the brain is vital to the creation of our sense of self.
About the Author
Veronica O’Keane is professor of psychiatry and consultant psychiatrist at Trinity College Dublin, with over thirty years of experience in the field. She has published extensively in the academic literature and lives by the sea in Dublin, Ireland.
[A] roving, riverine inquiry into memory, experience, the brain…O'Keane does not try to dazzle us with interpretations and cures, but dazzle she does with the science, the clarity with which she can conjure something as ordinary, as bafflingly complex and beautiful, as a memory forming in the brain.
— Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
These passages are vivid and immediate, and all the more affecting for the measured and unemphatic manner in which they are set down. If O’Keane is as fine a doctor as she is a prose stylist, her patients are fortunate indeed.
— John Banville, Guardian
[O'Keane's] unforgettable trip down memory’s many lanes leaves you with a marvelling awareness of what humans collectively share as memory makers and, at the same time, reminds us that each one of us is a singular translator of our world.
— London Observer
Rich, revelatory and, in the best way, unsettling.
— London Sunday Times
A comprehensive tour of the current state of knowledge about how memory operates in the brain.
— Elizabeth Landau, Undark
[O'Keane] delivers interesting observations on nearly every page…A welcome new voice in the literature of consciousness and neuroscience.
— Kirkus Reviews
O'Keane offers no shortage of intriguing insights and accounts…[A]n immersive and informative look at how memory works, and what happens when it doesn't.
— Publishers Weekly
Wonderful. I love the way Veronica O’Keane writes…difficult concepts made comprehensible with rich case studies. A must read for every counselor, psychotherapist, life coach and psychiatrist.
— Philippa Perry, author of The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read
Veronica O’Keane distills what she has learned about people in her life as a psychiatrist and neuroscientist. The reader will appreciate Dr. O’Keane’s beautiful prose and her caring attitudes, and will effortlessly pick up knowledge about how the brain determines our behavior.
— Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research, King’s College, London