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Super Memory

April 17, 2006

We hear a lot about patients who lose their memory, either due to an accident or a disease like Alzheimer’s. But what about people with an abnormally good memory?


Remember what you did yesterday? How about May 10th, 1996? For a forty-year-old woman known as "AJ," these questions are equally easy. Psychiatrist James McGaugh of the University of California at Irvine has been studying her previously undocumented super-memory. For example, given no advance warning, she was able to rattle off the dates of Easter for the past twenty years.

JAMES MCGAUGH (University of California at Irvine):
And she also told us what she was doing on each of those days, which we verified by turning to a diary she had kept over the years.

Remarkably, he says AJ doesn’t rely on rote memorization or mnemonic devices – she just vividly recalls each day as if it were yesterday. His team plans to use brain scans to find out if her memory is organized differently than other people’s. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.