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The Neuroscience of Rick Perry’s Brain Freeze

Despite the media attention drawn by Rick Perry’s brain freeze in the last Republican debates, scientists say it is not evidence of an intellectual dificiency or mental problem.

What’s the Latest Development?

Unless you’ve had your head under a rock, you know about Rick Perry’s brain freeze during the last Republican debates. At one point in the evening, the Texas governor could not remember, for the life of him, which three federal agencies he would eliminate. A media firestorm subsequently ensued. The coverage was certainly overblown but should Perry’s forgetfulness count against him in the presidential race? Not necessarily, say neurologists—even fiercely Democratic ones.

What’s the Big Idea?

Sometimes the brain works correctly, sometimes it doesn’t. When we cannot remember simple information, such as was Perry’s case, neuroscientists refer to the phenomenon as “retrieval failure”. It turns out that the brain’s language center is located far from its memory banks. When pressure builds, such as during a nationally televised debate, sometimes the connection fails. Neuroscientists say brain freezes are happening more often since, thanks to the information revolution, we demand more from our brains than ever before.

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