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Dr. James McGaugh discusses the keys to memory


Dr. James L. McGaugh, a Research Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior in the School of Biological Sciences and Fellow at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine, visited Furman University’s Psychology Department March 20 for a colloquium, “Making Lasting Memories.”

His visit was part of the university’s celebration of Brain Awareness Week, a global celebration launched by The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives to bring attention to brain science advances.

This lecture was sponsored by the Psychology Department, the Psychology Club and the Collaborative Neuroscience Society (CNS). Each year, the students organize a colloquium to bring a distinguished researcher to campus. The speaker is selected by the students and the event is completely organized by the students. This talk was also part of the McCahan Colloquium Series, named after a former Psychology faculty member, Dr. Gerda McCahan. The purpose of the series is to stimulate intellectual curiosity and excitement about advances in the science and profession of psychology.

The lecture focused on the idea that stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol are key to why people remember some things more vividly than others. Dr. McGaugh shared how his first studies failed but that failure led to other ideas which turned out to be groundbreaking in the field, said Associate Professor of Psychology Michelle Horhota. Students also had the opportunity to meet with Dr. McGaugh and speak with him in a small group setting.

McGaugh is the former President of the Association for Psychological Science and has been recognized with an impressive number of awards and distinctions including the Distinguished Scientific Contribution award of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Sciences’s William James Fellow Award, the American Philosophical Society’s Karl Lashley Prize in Neuroscience, and in the next few months will be accepting the Grawemeyer Award for Psychology, an award is given for an “outstanding idea” that influenced the field of psychology.

He has published more than 500 articles and chapters on the link between emotion, stress hormones and memory.

McGaugh has also conducted research on Superior Autobiographical Memory which has been featured on “60 Minutes” and his recent article, “Brain Science: Remembrance of All Things Past,” was recently published in Scientific American.

He earned his B.A. in psychology from San Jose State University and his Ph.D. in physiological psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.


Learn more about the Furman Psychology Department.


Last updated August 5, 2022
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Clinton Colmenares
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