For most of us, memory is a kind of diary, a mess ofdifferent events of our lives. As muchas we would like to cling on to our past, even there are moments which can bewashed away with time, but some people with autobiographical memory can recall information about themselves,and about personal events in the past withconsiderable accuracy, details of daily experiences that occurred over manyprevious decades. Evidences:1.
Nima Veiseh : can tell what he was doing for any day inthe past 15 years. He can even put a date on when those reels startedrecording: 15 December 2000, when he met his first girlfriend at his bestfriend’s 16th birthday party. He had always had a good memory, but the thrill ofyoung love seems to have shifted a gear in his mind: from now on, he wouldstart recording his whole life in detail. But he still can’t explain why sheset it off.2. Jill Price.: emailing the neuroscientist and memoryresearcher Jim McGaugh one day, she claimed that she could recall every day ofher life since the age of 12. McGaugh invited her to his lab, and began to testher: he would give her a date and ask her to tell him about the world events onthat day.
True to her word, she was correct almost every time. Luckily, Pricehad also kept a diary throughout that period and the researchers can verify whatshe said; she was right the vast majority of the time3. Intriguingly, their memories are highly self-centred:although they can remember “autobiographical” life events in extraordinarydetail, they seem to be no better than average at recalling impersonalinformation, such as random lists of words. Nor are they necessarily better atremembering a round of drinks, say. “Sometimes I don’t remember what happenedfive minutes ago, but I can remember a detail from 22 January 2008,” explains”Bill”, who asked us not to use his full name to avoid unwanted attention.
Andalthough their memories are vast, they are susceptible to some of the mistakeswe all makePeople with AM still suffer from “false memories”. They can be primed to remember world events that neveractually occurred, for instance.Clearly, there is no such thing as a “perfect” memory –their extraordinary minds are still using the same flawed tools that the restof us rely on. The way their memories evolve over time. AM subjects begin at aricher starting point, encoding more details as soon as an event has occurred.
In reality, the differences only emerged months down the line: whereas for theother subjects, they had become faded and vague, for the HSAM subjects theevents were still just as fresh. It must be something about the way they hold onto the information that the rest of us aren’t doing. the key seems to lie inmore general thinking patterns and habits. Could we all train ourselves to think and remember like them? –No, it depends on which memory is- We say no when:o Bad and painful memorieso Not nice storyo Broken hearto Loss and Dealtho Unhappiness- In contrast, we say yes. On the plus side, it allows youto enrich experiences and absorb a vast knowledge.
Donohue, now ahistory teacher, agrees that it helped during certain parts of her education:”I can definitely remember what I learned on certain days at school. I couldimagine what the teacher was sayingor what it looked like in the book.”Not everyone with HSAM has experienced these benefits,however; Price “hated” school and as a result, seemed not to be able to accessthe information she had learned. Clearly, the information still has to bepersonally important for it to stick.It can be very hard to forgetembarrassing moments. You can’t turn that stream of memories off, no matter howhard you try – Nicole DonohueViewing the past in high definition can also make it verydifficult to get over pain and regret. “It can be very hard to forgetembarrassing moments,” says Donohue.
“You feel same emotions – it is just asraw, just as fresh… You can’t turn off that stream of memories, no matter howhard you try.” Veiseh agrees: “It is like having these open wounds – they arejust a part of you,” he says.This means they often have to make a special effort tolay the past to rest; Bill, for instance, often gets painful “flashbacks”, inwhich unwanted memories intrude into his consciousness, but overall he haschosen to see it as the best way of avoiding repeating the same mistakes. “Somepeople are absorbed in the past but not open to new memories, but that’s notthe case for me. I look forward to the each day and experiencing somethingnew.”Veiseh even thinks his condition has made him a kinder,more tolerant person. “Some say ‘forgive and forget’, but since forgetting isa luxury I don’t have, I need to learn to genuinely forgive,” hesays. “Not just others, but myself as well.”