TODAY   |  March 05, 2013

Marilu Henner offers a ‘Total Memory Makeover’

Actress and author Marilu Henner, one of the rare people with “highly superior autobiographical memory,” joins Sam Gandy M.D., director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York to discuss her new book “Total Memory Makeover: Uncover your past, take charge of your future.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> tuesday, and it's time to play some mind games . if you have ever forgotten where you put the car keys, this is for you.

>> actress mary lou henner has what is called highly superior autobiographical memory which means she never forgets a thing, and she doesn't want you to either. she writes all about it in a book. it's called "total memory makeover." dr. sam is the director of the center for cognitive health at new york's mount sinai medical center .

>> look at you two.

>> look at you.

>> it's funny, all the memories are coming back from the last time i was in this studio. i know it's booze day tuesday, and i remember -- all of a sudden i have not thought about this date in years, but it was november 6, 1998 , friday at your house. you had chardonnay and chablais the dogs. it was dolly pardon with us.

>> we all had the same agent, and we were all trying to do a sit comtogether. wow.

>> we should point out that mary lou remembers every day of her life. what you were doing on every day.

>> things come back. i'm in this building, and i remember all the different times.

>> one of the producers asked me for a significant date in my life that i could remember. i couldn't remember the day i graduated college. they said what about the day i gave some commencement speech . i said tell me what year and when that was. let me just ask if you remember. why not, mary lou ?

>> autobiographical.

>> i'm going to pick my date, and you tell me what happened to you on that day. may 9th , 2008 . that was the day i gave the speech. the only day i remember of my life.

>> it was a friday. may 9th , 2008 . i was doing publicity -- i had a book that had just come out called "wear your life well."

>> oh, my gosh.

>> i was actually -- was doing something with my husband. it's like the whole day starts to fall into --

>> does that start to drive you crazy? is that something you access when you need, it or does it drive you crazy.

>> it's like a pilot light that's always on. if i am driving and hear a song on the radio, i can flash back on all the times or the first time or a significant time. if i'm on the phone with my sister, it might flash through my mind, well, not like this on the phone because -- it's like this. if -- it's there, but, you know, i can --

>> this isn't just a gee whiz book. we know you are capable. it's a gift you've been given.

>> there are 12 of us that have been documented in the world so far.

>> your book is to help other people. in what way?

>> people don't realize that every single thing that you have ever been through is on your emotional hard drive , and it's making you behave a certain way whether or not you're access it. what i'm trying to do is bring back some of those our town moments. memory is tied to adrenaline. of course, you're going to remember the highs and the lows. you're going to remember the death of a parent, the birth of a child, a wedding date, things like that, but you're not always going to remember a big family vacation or dinner with your loved ones or something. what i'm trying to do through my exercise, my prompting, my helping people realize that everybody has a dominant track -- a primary track on which they embed their memories, and they also have a dominant sense by which they record, retain, and then can retrieve their memories.

>> how does that bring in dr. sam?

>> the good doctor can help us find our lost keys. things like that.

>> people like us who lose everything.

>> excuse me.

>> you know we both have been lose and forgetting things lately. is there a way we can work that muscle?

>> you p, one of the most important ways i used to remember things is to surround myself with people who help remind me. i brought someone with me. i also brought someone with me today from my lab. this is kelly . she's a graduate student at mount sinai . to get i more direct answer to your question, there are two strategy that is i often give people for remembering things. the first is to attach -- i'm sure these are all old hat to you.

>> they may be very different. i'm working with a different part of the brain.

>> first to try to attach a new memory to an old memory.

>> something that clicks it. clicks the memory.

>> try to remember a name or a face. you meet someone new named martha, so you attach -- maybe you remember martha washington , so you use -- think of martha washington .

>> this person is old.

>> or you pick out part of the world that you recognize like mart so you think of your favorite shopping mart. that's a trigger to bring the new word back.

>> see, what i like to do when -- it's like my keys because people always ask me that. they say do you ever lose your keys. my family goes all the time. i stop, and i retrace my steps, and i think, okay, and i actually go auto biographically back into my life and think, oh, yes, i came. i had to go to the bathroom, so i threw the keys down right away.

>> have you ever not been able to access it, ever forgotten everything of a particular memory?

>> no.

>> wow.

>> no. sometimes it takes longer than others because it's really like seeing selection on a dvd, and some images come up faster, but i have always gotten there.

>> it's interesting. we want to thank you for coming to see us.

>> why did we introduce her. is that so we could remember her name was kelly ?

>> what was her name?

>> what was she wearing?

>> i thought --

>> what was she wearing?

>> she had a little dress.

>> a green scarf.

>> green dress.

>> her last name?

>> no, did i say kelly ?

>> i can't believe you got that?

>> that's right.

>> thank you.