Lastly, in closing up the tabs: an article at the BBC website: (Credit: Edouard Taufenbech)
Both articles are basically profiles of people who file away data/memories. Who can never forget. Some of us have excellent memories, some of us—mostly husbands—cannot remember what they went to the grocery for.
Researchers are not yet certain what forms the basis of memories. The assumption is that most memories are language based—thus, it is unlikely to have memories pre-verbal. Yet, I know I can recall certain images—an overhead light over my crib because I associated the seemingly glazed spiral with a honey bun, even though I still didn’t have a word for honey bun. I guess looking at it made me hungry. I wanted to eat that thing over my crib.
I remember climbing out of my crib. I wasn’t tall enough to open the door, so I would fall asleep in front of the door, making it difficult for mom to come in and check on me. Now some of this memory could be stuff Mom later recounted. Like the sleeping part. I suspect I was under the age of three.
The subject of the article, her memory stretch all the way back to being a baby. “I’d always know when it was Mum holding me, for some reason. I just instinctively always knew and she was my favourite person.” She has been diagnosed with a rare syndrome called ‘Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory’, or HSAM, also known as hyperthymesia. This unique neurological condition means that Sharrock can recall every single thing she did on any given date.
The second article has to do with the ability to hang onto every random date and memory and retain it at the fingertips of recall. The blessing and curse of this kind of memory is that it can be an anvil weighing you down. Every regret, mistake, coming back to you to be rehearsed all over again. Scenes of sadness, grief replayed over and over. It is a tremendous burden to bear.
‘Highly superior autobiographical memory’ (or HSAM for short), first came to light in the early 2000s, with a young woman named 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.
The subjects themselves find it hard to put their finger on the trigger, however; Veiseh, for instance, knows that his HSAM began with meeting his first girlfriend, but he still can’t explain why she set it off.
I remember applying mnemonic strategies before a test. In order to remember A I remember B. The whole house of cards can easily come undone. One presupposes the other. Very tricky. There were even courses you could send away for to help improve memory. For the person who cannot escape their memories they would gladly change places.
Two of the people interviewed with HSAM: “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.
It is a narrow road we travel, the tension between recall and what the memory represents. We don’t want to live in the land of memories 24/7.