The Nader experiment, simple as it seems, requires science to completely re-imagine its theories of remembering. It reveals memory as a ceaseless process, not a repository of inert information. It shows us that every time we remember anything, the neuronal structure of the memory is delicately transformed, a process called reconsolidation. (Freud called this process Nachtreglichkeit, or “retroactivity.”) The memory is altered in the absence of the original stimulus, becoming less about what you remember and more about you. So the purely objective memory, the one “true” to the original taste of the madeleine, is the one memory you will never know. The moment you remember the cookie’s taste is the same moment you forget what it really tasted it like.


As Proust put it, “The only paradise is paradise lost.” […] Proust intuitively knew that our memories required this transformative process. If you prevent the memory from changing, it ceases to exist. This is Proust’s guilty secret: we have to misremember something in order to remember it.

Jonah Lehrer, Proust Was a Neuroscientist