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Fearing Her Mind's Decline, Patricia Marx Scrambles To Get 'Less Stupid'

Patricia Marx is also the author of two novels, <em>Starting from Happy</em> and <em>Him Her Him Again the End of Him.</em>
Courtesy of Hachette Book Group
Patricia Marx is also the author of two novels, Starting from Happy and Him Her Him Again the End of Him.

Patricia Marx is a former writer for Saturday Night Live and Rugrats. She's a contributor to The New Yorker.

And she's afraid she's losing her mind.

"There were just so many moments of, 'What's that thing that you put the thing in that's got the thing that, you know, that what is it called?' " Marx tells NPR's Arun Rath.

"I was really worried that in a matter of days, I was going to need a caregiver and the caregiver was going to find the butter dish in my sock drawer."

Marx channeled her anxiety about memory loss and aging into her new memoir, Let's Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties.

Interview Highlights

On getting a baseline for her mental function

First I took some free online IQ tests. I took the test and I thought well, I'm pretty smart! My mother's right, I really am pretty smart. These aren't very hard. And then I get the results and it's 74. 74! That's, like, you'd have to be trained on how to scratch your arm if you have an IQ of 74. You have to get assistance to tie your shoes.

So it turns out it was a timed test. I thought you had the whole day, so I voted for the mayor in that time. I did a lot of things, so really I did deserve that 74. And I had my brain imaged, and I did that before and after my "get smart" program.

On what she did to get smarter

I did pretty much everything I could stand that was recommended. I learned Cherokee, I zapped electricity into my brain, I learned piano scales, I meditated. I did take fish oil, but fish oil is sort of on the outs right now. And I did the brain exercises all the time. ...

Everything I did I got better at. The controversy is whether or not there's a ripple effect, you know, so that you actually get smarter.

On whether the brain exercises worked

Not one of my friends has said stuff like, "Gosh, you calculated the tip at that restaurant so well. You never did that before." That doesn't mean I haven't gotten smarter.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff