Neuro Science    




Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory(HSAM)

Imagine being able to remember almost every day of your life in incredible detail. From what you ate for breakfast on a random day years ago, to the exact words of conversations you had, to how you felt during significant moments in your life - this is the reality for people with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM). This unique condition allows them to recall personal events and experiences far beyond the norm. But what exactly is HSAM, and how does it affect the lives of those who have it? How do they manage the vast amount of memories they carry, and what can their extraordinary recall teach us about memory and the human brain?.

Case Stories

HSAM is very rare because it means having a very special kind of memory that most people don't have. But, the reason we hear about so few people with HSAM might also be because some people don't realize they have this kind of memory or they don't tell anyone about it. It's hard to know you have HSAM because you might think it's normal to remember a lot. Also, finding out if someone has HSAM needs careful testing, which might be why not many cases are reported.

In this section, I will introduce only a few cases about whom I can get information relatively easily from internet, academic papers or YouTube.

Jill Price

Jill Price has a very special kind of memory that lets her remember almost every day of her life in great detail. She can recall the exact dates of events, what happened on TV shows, her own life experiences, and even the weather on specific days. Her memory is not just about knowing facts; it's like she can go back and live those moments again because she remembers the feelings she had too.

This unique ability of hers has made scientists very interested. They wonder how memory works for her and think that understanding her condition could teach us a lot about how all of our memories are stored and brought back. However, her story also shows us the downside of remembering too much. She can't choose to forget the small or painful things that most people naturally forget over time. Being able to forget some things can help us feel better, but Jill Price doesn't have this option, which can make life very hard.

Source : The Woman Who Could Not Forget - Jill Price

Key symptoms and aspects of her condition include:

  • Exceptional Memory Recall: Price can recall specific details of personal and public events, including the dates they occurred, with astounding accuracy.
  • Emotional Reliving: Her memories come with the emotional experiences attached to them, making past events feel immediate and sometimes overwhelming.
  • Difficulty in Forgetting: Unlike the typical memory process that allows people to forget insignificant details over time, Price remembers nearly everything, making it hard for her to move past traumatic or painful memories.
  • Impact on Daily Life: The constant presence of past memories affects her daily living, causing emotional distress and making it challenging to focus on the present.
  • Selective Memory: Despite her exceptional autobiographical memory, she experiences difficulty with rote memorization and applying her memory skills to academic or professional tasks.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Tendencies: Researchers have noted that the part of her brain associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is larger than usual, suggesting a link between her memory abilities and OCD tendencies.

Markie Pasternak

Markie Pasternak is recognized for her Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), a rare ability that allows her to remember nearly every day of her life in vivid detail. She discovered this trait during her college years and has since contributed to memory research. With a background in higher education and student affairs, Pasternak now works in outreach and peer education, sharing her unique experiences with HSAM publicly. Her insights offer valuable perspectives on the interplay between memory, mental health, and daily living.

Source : Why a near-perfect memory can be both a blessing and a curse

  • Exceptional Recall: Markie Pasternak has the ability to remember an extraordinary amount of detail from her personal past, including specific events, emotions, and sensations from almost any given date.
  • Continuous Memory: Unlike typical memory where mundane details are forgotten, Pasternak's HSAM means she retains vivid memories of daily life that most would deem insignificant.
  • Impactful Life Events: Significant life events, whether positive or negative, are remembered with intense detail and remain prominent in her memory.
  • Daily Double-Checking: She often verifies the accuracy of her memories against real-world records, reinforcing her recall ability.
  • OCD Relationship: Pasternak has discussed the connection between her HSAM and tendencies towards obsessive-compulsive disorder, suggesting a link between her memory capabilities and mental health aspects.

Neurological Mechanism behind this ?

People with HSAM have brains that work a bit differently when it comes to memory. Brain scans, like fMRI, show that parts of their brains linked to remembering are bigger or more active than usual. This includes areas that deal with storing our experiences and understanding time. These brain differences might be why they can recall their past in such detail. But scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how these brain features are connected to their amazing memory.

  • Brain Structure Differences: People with HSAM might have certain parts of their brain, like the temporal lobe and caudate nucleus, which are bigger or more active than usual. These parts are important for storing and recalling memories.
  • Memory Processing: Their brains can process and recall personal memories in much greater detail, possibly due to these structural differences.
  • Research Studies: Scientists use special brain scans like fMRI to study these differences and understand why some people have HSAM. They're looking into how these brain areas work differently in people with HSAM

Myth about HASM ?

Have you ever wondered if the remarkable tales about Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM) are all true? Can individuals with HSAM truly recall every moment of their lives with flawless accuracy? Does possessing HSAM guarantee an advantage in intellectual capabilities or in academic fields? In this introduction, we'll explore and clarify some widespread myths surrounding HSAM, shedding light on the nuanced reality of living with an extraordinary memory capacity.

Some common myths or misunderstandings about HSAM include:

  • HSAM individuals remember everything: People often think HSAM means remembering every single detail of life, but it's more about remembering autobiographical events in great detail, not every single moment or fact.
  • HSAM is a form of photographic memory: HSAM is specifically about autobiographical (personal) memories, not the ability to recall all visual details perfectly.
  • HSAM enhances intelligence or academic performance: There's no direct link between HSAM and higher intelligence or better academic skills; HSAM focuses on memory of personal events.
  • HSAM is always beneficial: While HSAM can seem advantageous, it also has challenges, such as difficulty forgetting traumatic experiences or being overwhelmed by the volume of memories.