The oops heard round the world. Patients with recurring, pathological problems retrieving a name or label from memory are said to suffer from anomia. But it’s something that happens to everyone occasionally. For Perry, it happened on the national stage last Wednesday at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Perry couldn’t remember the word “Energy” as one of the 3 federal agencies he’d like to cut if elected to the presidency.
Memory is stored throughout the brain, but names are typically known to be stored in the medial temporal lobe. People who have a stroke or tumor in this area can lose the ability to remember the names of their everything in their lives, even their children. Governor Perry appeared to have a temporary malfunction in the temporal lobe leading to his public gaffe.
MIT neuroscientist John Gabrieli stated that brain freeze is due to a mental block that has to be cleared away, somehow, before you can find the word you want.
“It’s not that you can’t get there, it’s that something’s blocking that, some other idea or word has come into your head. Until you clear that other thing, it’s hard to get back to that piece of information that you really know,” Gabrieli said.
Apparently, the best thing to do in this sort of mental lapse is to relax and try to think about something else for a bit and wait for the memory to return. Of course, Perry didn’t have that luxury last week at the debate…
Check out the Times article explaining Governor Perry’s brain freeze here.