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Hyperthymesia: A Blessing Or A Curse?

By Njideka Agbo 09 April 2018   |   7:00 am

Imagine being able to recall totally and accurately everything that happened to you about 25 years ago. It would be great if it were memories of birthdays or fun but when it is an extreme case of war, it is not so good.

Hyperthymesia simply means excessive thinking. You have the ‘superpower’ to recall your past, images, sounds or a specific important event. It is also known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM) because a person has the ability to remember events that are significant to him.

There are two broad classifications of the HSAM: the person who recalls past events and the one who has an ability to bring up events similar or relating to the past. Simple things such as dates and seeing a person’s face or belongings can trigger recall subconsciously if it played an important role in the person’s life.

Until 2015, there have been 61 recorded cases of this ‘superpower’.

This syndrome was first discovered in 2006 when James McGaugh, Larry Cahill, Elizabeth Parker and Dr Paul Tejera of the University of California came in contact with a woman now known to the world as AJ (real name Jill Prince) who could remember everything about a personally significant event. This finding was published in the Neurocase.

Jill Prince. Photo credit: Freedom Personality Development

However, this does not mean that they perform well in class.

Little is known about what causes this syndrome. However, some researchers have opined that factors such as the temporal lobe and the caudate might contribute to this ability.

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