Hyperthymesia: A Blessing Or A Curse?


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 his events that are significant to them.

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.

As at 2015, only 61 of the world’s population have 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 discovered a woman (real name Jill Prince; famously known as AJ) who could remember everything about a personally significant event. This finding was published in the Neurocase.

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.