Woman With Perfect Memory Baffles Scientists

By | March 20, 2006

Woman With Perfect Memory Baffles Scientists

“Doctors are baffled by a woman who remembers even minor details about virtually every day of her life. “

They’ve created a name for her situation: “hyperthymestic syndrome“. I have to wonder if she is actually normal and we are the ones who are flawed, perhaps due to some genetic defect in our past.

March 20, 2006 — James McGaugh is one of the world’s leading experts on how the human memory system works. But these days, he admits he’s stumped.

McGaugh’s journey through an intellectual purgatory began six years ago when a woman now known only as AJ wrote him a letter detailing her astonishing ability to remember with remarkable clarity even trivial events that happened decades ago. Give her any date, she said, and she could recall the day of the week, usually what the weather was like on that day, personal details of her life at that time, and major news events that occurred on that date.

Like any good scientist, McGaugh was initially skeptical. But not anymore. “This is real,” he says. Soon after AJ took over his life, McGaugh teamed with two fellow researchers at the University of California at Irvine. Elizabeth Parker, a clinical professor of psychiatry and neurology (and lead author of a report on the research in the current issue of the journal Neurocase), and Larry Cahill, an associate professor of neurobiology and behavior, have joined McGaugh in putting AJ through an exhaustive series of interviews and psychological tests. But they aren’t a lot closer today to understanding her amazing ability than they were when they started.” – ABCNews

Imagine humans visiting Earth millions of years ago who all had perfect recall. In such a civilization, what would language be like? Would they bother with a written language? Imagine? the humans who stayed on Earth purposely had their memories disabled by the ones who left the planet long ago. A person who has always been blind does not miss sight. In the same way, we can imagine perfect recall, but our lack of it feels normal. We do not know that we are largely “memory blind.”

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