The burden of all the memories: Case of hyperthymesia

Abstractive representation of memories

Scientists believed there is no case of perfect memory. Then came Jill Price, 56-year-old American woman, who was diagnosed with hyperthymesia. This specific diagnosis was developed based on the case study of Jill Price, in scientific literature known as AJ. She is also the first person to be diagnosed with this syndrome. 

Hyperthymesia syndrome is not well understood nor is there much empirical evidence to support this diagnosis. However it is necessary to remember that this diagnosis was firstly introduced in 2006. For now this diagnosis is seen as a subcategory of hypermnesia and refers to very unusual in quality and quantity autobiographical memory. It is expressed by Jill remembering everyday she lived through since she was 14 years-old with surprising amount of detail and specificity. When given a date, she can specify the day of the week it fell on, what she was doing during that day and what was happening in the world (if she was aware of it on that day). Moreover her memory is not only limited to simple facts, she states that she can actually relive them.

This ability may be the closest we ever got to the phenomenon of perfect memory, however there is a burden carried with it. Jill not only remembers everything she wants to remember, she remembers EVERYTHING. This means every argument, every failure, every loss. For her the phrase ‘time heals every wound’ is completely not applicable. The great amount of detail of her memories causes her to ruminate on her past extensively. 

Even though science does not understand her condition and therefore can not provide her with a solution to her struggles. Jill says that participation in the research conducted on her (Parker, Cahill & McGaugh, 2006) gave her an extensive amount of hope for the future of her and other people, who suffer from memory pathologies.

Goodnow, C. (2008, May 18). Wow, a perfect memory. But for Jill Price, it is a special kind of hell. brainHQ.

Parker, E. S., Cahill, L., & McGaugh, J. L. (2006). A case of unusual autobiographical remembering. Neurocase, 12(1), 35–49.

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