For most of us, memory is a kind of diary, a mess of
different events  of our lives. As much
as we would like to cling on to our past, even there are moments which can be
washed away with time, but some people with autobiographical memory can recall information about themselves,
and about personal events in the past with
considerable accuracy, details of daily experiences that occurred over many
previous decades. 


1.   Nima Veiseh : can tell what he was doing for any day in
the past 15 years. He can even put a date on when those reels started
recording: 15 December 2000, when he met his first girlfriend at his best
friend’s 16th birthday party. He had always had a good memory, but the thrill of
young love seems to have shifted a gear in his mind: from now on, he would
start recording his whole life in detail. But he still can’t explain why she
set it off.

2.   Jill Price.: emailing the neuroscientist and memory
researcher Jim McGaugh one day, she claimed that she could recall every day of
her life since the age of 12. McGaugh invited her to his lab, and began to test
her: he would give her a date and ask her to tell him about the world events on
that day. True to her word, she was correct almost every time. Luckily, Price
had also kept a diary throughout that period and the researchers can verify what
she said; she was right the vast majority of the time


Intriguingly, their memories are highly self-centred:
although they can remember “autobiographical” life events in extraordinary
detail, they seem to be no better than average at recalling impersonal
information, such as random lists of words. Nor are they necessarily better at
remembering a round of drinks, say. “Sometimes I don’t remember what happened
five 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. And
although their memories are vast, they are susceptible to some of the mistakes
we all make

People with AM still suffer from “false memories”. They can be primed to remember world events that never
actually 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 rest
of us rely on. The way their memories evolve over time. AM subjects begin at a
richer starting point, encoding more details as soon as an event has occurred.
In reality, the differences only emerged months down the line: whereas for the
other subjects, they had become faded and vague, for the HSAM subjects the
events were still just as fresh. It must be something about the way they hold on
to the information that the rest of us aren’t doing. the key seems to lie in
more 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 memories

o   Not nice story

o   Broken heart

o   Loss and Dealth

o   Unhappiness

–       In contrast, we say yes. On the plus side, it allows you
to enrich experiences and  absorb a vast  knowledge.

Donohue, now a
history teacher, agrees that it helped during certain parts of her education:
“I can definitely remember what I learned on certain days at school. I could
imagine what the teacher was saying
or 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 access
the information she had learned. Clearly, the information still has to be
personally important for it to stick.

It can be very hard to forget
embarrassing moments. You can’t turn that stream of memories off, no matter how
hard you try – Nicole Donohue

Viewing the past in high definition can also make it very
difficult to get over pain and regret. “It can be very hard to forget
embarrassing moments,” says Donohue. “You feel same emotions – it is just as
raw, just as fresh… You can’t turn off that stream of memories, no matter how
hard you try.” Veiseh agrees: “It is like having these open wounds – they are
just a part of you,” he says.

This means they often have to make a special effort to
lay the past to rest; Bill, for instance, often gets painful “flashbacks”, in
which unwanted memories intrude into his consciousness, but overall he has
chosen to see it as the best way of avoiding repeating the same mistakes. “Some
people are absorbed in the past but not open to new memories, but that’s not
the case for me. I look forward to the each day and experiencing something

Veiseh even thinks his condition has made him a kinder,
more tolerant person. “Some say ‘forgive and forget’, but since forgetting is
a luxury I don’t have, I need to learn to genuinely forgive,” he
says. “Not just others, but myself as well.”


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