Hyperthymesia: The Ability to Remember Even the Most Mundane Events Every Day of Your Life

Superior Autobiographical Memory

Hyperthymesia is the ability to remember even the smallest of details on any ordinary day in someone's life. There are only six known cases of this condition, which is also called "Superior Autobiographical Memory."

There are several cases of savants who have extraordinary memory relating to certain subjects: Kim Peek, a savant, memorized every word of 76,000 books. This is called factual memory. Daniel Tammet memorized PI to 22,514 digits. Stephen Wiltshire memorized Rome from the air after taking a 45 minute flight over the city. This is a form of eidic memory. Leslie Lemke played back Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto after hearing it only once. This is music memory.

There is mnemonic memory, where people can remember facts using images, rhymes or some other device to recall what they wish to remember. There is automatic memory, which is also called habit memory where people retain images. There is cognitive or semantic memory and episodic memory, where people remember things that eventually disappear from their minds.

People with hyperthymesia are not savants, they don't use mnemonics, and their memories never disappear. It is often described as a "Movie that just keeps on playing."

Hyperthymesia was named after the Greek words, "Thymesis," meaning memory, and "hyper" meaning more than normal. People with hyperthymesis can recall any day of their lives usually after a certain point in childhood. If given a date, they can tell you what the day of the week was, what important new event happened that day, and what they were doing at the time.

Most people can remember the significant days of their lives, and at times tell you what day of the week it was, but not to the extent that these people can recall otherwise mundane events. They can even tell you what the weather was like on the day that is being recalled.

Elizabeth Parker, Larry Cahill and James Mcgaugh head up the research of hyperthymesia at the University of California. Mcgaugh, the founder of the study, is quoted as saying "If there is one thing that should be studied in order to learn about human nature, it is memory."

The first known case of hyperthymesia is a woman who wished to be known as "AJ," but who has since allowed her name to be known-Jill Price. She contacted the researchers complaining of non-stop, uncontrollable and automatic memories. For Price, as it is with the other people with the condition, it is as if she is re-living the incidence all over again, over and over and over.

This extraordinary tendency to remember only affects things that specifically relate to the lives of the people who have hyperthymesia. They don't remember facts for the sake of remembering facts if those facts do not pertain to their own personal lives.

The other known cases of people with this inability to forget are Rick Baron of Ohio, Shereshevskii of Russia, Brad Williams of California and MaryLou Henner of the 80s television show "Taxi."

Interestingly enough, Mr. "S," Shereshevskii, is also a synaesthite.

Researchers are investigating how they can use the studies of people with hyperthymesia to help understand the Alzheimer phenomena-and to help find a cure for the disease.

After conducting MRIs on the confirmed case studies of people with hyperthymesia, it was discovered that in each of the participants, there was a part of their brain that was much larger than average-as much as six times larger. The question is, however, is the brain larger because of the condition or is the condition because that part of the brain is larger?




Published by Michelle Foster

Michelle Foster is a Deaf/ Hard of Hearing Independent Paralegal, Pre-Law Student, Home Owners Insurance Claims Adjuster, Investigator, Inventor, Creative Writer, Journalist, Research Maniac, Film Maker/ Scr...  View profile