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Jill Price (AJ) | A Woman Who Remembers Minute Detail of her Entire

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hyperthymesia

hyperthymesia - Jill Price (AJ) | A Woman Who Remembers Minute Detail of her EntireFamily History of AJ

A Californian woman, Jill Price was not known to the world until when she claims to have an exceptional memory. She has an outstanding ability to recall almost every detail of the past since childhood. AJ was an ordinary individual born in a normal delivery. She was born in 1965 to a Jewish family; her mother was the then assistant in the medical office while her father a businessman. Her parents never knew AJ’s cognitive ability because she has always been an ordinary student in her school. AJ describes that few other family members owns a fairly good memory but they are nothing like her own. AJ got married when she was 37.

How AJ’s Memory Developed?

One of the earliest memories AJ possesses is when she was in a crib and was hardly 2 years of age. Just when she was asleep her nearby uncle’s dog woke her up and she got frightened. She also remembers her brother’s birth and the conditions under which his birth took place. AJ clarifies that her memory is full and complete embracing all kinds of smallest events. In a nutshell all the (remembering episodes) are detailed.

However, her memory took a sharp turn when the family shifted from east coast to live in the west. She says that she was not happy with the move. This shift had left her in a state of shock and she had to gather new memories from the scratch, prepare a list of new friends. She begins to recall her past in the west whist looking at the pictures. However, her memories became much clearer after the move. When Jill was 10 she began keeping a diary but she didn’t realize (her exceptional memory) then. It was finally in 1978 when she was 12 years old she became fully cognizant of her detailed memory. However, her memory was not fully developed at this stage and she could recall many different events (ages 8 to 13 years) but not all. In order to recollect her entire memory, she has to spend a considerable amount of time. In the coming years, AJ beginning to recall her past memories and now she could evoke precise dates and events with ease. AJ’s memory became fully developed in 1980 when she was only 14. She says “give me the day and I see it. I go back to the day I just see the day and what I was doing.” According to AJ, her family came to know her ability when she was 20 years old.

Diaries of AJ

Jill Price began keeping her day-to-day diary while she was only 10 and she continuously recorded actions of almost every day. Seldom does she record events inch by inch and often does she keep them scheduling with calendars. Some of AJ’s entries were particularly not-readable because of their tiny sizes even it was hard for AJ to read them; nonetheless, few of them rather more readable though they did not contain as much details. AJ explained that she was “obsessed with writing things down” because had she not written those things on diary, they would remain in her mind forever. Indeed things had become fairly easy for AJ as she wrote them down. She never bothered to review these diaries in fact they were only used to verify her recollections.

Educational History

While AJ has got an exceptional memory it might seem hard to believe that she never excelled in school in fact she was an ordinary student. She always likes to remember things as if she found solace in this activity. AJ was an average student with an average mind. She never considered herself a genius and she said that she had to work very hard to get A grades. AJ never liked subjects like History, Science, Arithmetic, and foreign languages or any subject which involves too many dates to remember. She got D’s in geometry. AJ liked Algebra and she got A in it with ease. According to AJ, she was taught by a tutor in second grade as she had great difficulty to memorize facts. Yet, AJ became Graduate in social science at the age of.

Occupational History

AJ employed in an entertainment field and she worked there for almost a year. She was also employed in a law office where she worked as an assistant and her memory (to recall events) helped her a lot. Before getting married she worked as an executive assistant for six years. She likes to be a housewife and never likes to be a working woman. Her ultimate aim is to look after her children and husband.

Medical and Psychological History

AJ says that she had severe headaches since childhood to her thirties. She had suffered from migraines and she had to take 5 ibuprofen tablets each day. She had migraines as much as 5 times a year but as she reached the age of 37, it only bothered her once a year. AJ did not have a healthy childhood since she suffered from ear and throat infections while she was only 5. Moreover, AJ had a tonsillectomy surgery at age four with two subsequent facial surgeries at age sixteen (when she met an accident). AJ also hit her head at the age of eight but fortunately there was no serious injury. She also had a period of depression from ages 25 to 27 and often had counseling for that. There was a time when she had sleep problems (insomnia) but at present she never had one in seven years.

She is also reported to have several phobias but none such phobias affected her memory. She underwent bird phobia precisely because she was hit on her head by a pigeon on July 16, 1988. AJ’s other phobias include rats, particular foods and smells, and bird droppings. She says that she gets disturbed whenever someone changes the settings of her room; at the age of five show would ‘throw a fit’ if anyone tries to change the settings of her bedroom. It shows how much she was attached not only to her family but to her little things. Apart from that, she yells or screams when her family members leaves her alone. This explains why she lived most of her life with her parents even after getting married. Although her husband attempts to move outside the country but after a short while they had to return to AJ’s home. She went through the biggest shock when her parents decided to sell their house because she was never ready to see her house go where she spent her entire childhood. All these petty reactions explains her history of anxiety. AJ is an expressive individual and she likes to meet people. She is also interested in T.V. programs.

Behavioral Observations

All throughout the investigation, AJ proved to be very cooperative. When asked about her second grade teacher, she described the entire physical appearance, his name, and every tits and bits about the teacher. She has the ability to recollect past events within no time. It is almost impossible for an ordinary individual to recall events within seconds. However, she simply says ‘she doesn’t know the answer’ when she does not know.

While AJ responded well to her doctors’ questions, she never liked the fact of being questioned. Besides, she also disliked the neuropsyhological tests.

AJ’s Autobiographical Memory

AJ’s memory to recall autobiographical events is remarkable and she always enjoyed remembering these events. According to AJ, all these autobiographical events are automatic and they never bother her to consciously recall them. She feels a lot more comfortable while describing her autobiographical memory. Whenever she was inquired about her own incidents, she immediately recollected those events told the doctors as to what she was doing on which day.

Comparison of Hyperthymesia and Anterograde Amnesia | Two Extremes of the Human Brain

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While we put forward our arguments regarding memory, we actually base our opinions on the premise of perception. This means that the overflow of the past events in the memory is often viewed in the wide spectrum of perception. It is well-nigh impossible to comprehend the external world without even knowing as to what actually the thing is, or from where it came; besides, it is also hard to recognize the accompanying experiences associated with these perceptions.

Introduction

It follows that individuals having Anterograde Amnesia is most likely to suffer from the lack of capacity to sense the world. Anterograde Amnesia is actually the inability to recall past events or to store new information in the short term. The loss of memory is often caused by accidents or severe incidents. Leonard from the Christopher Nolan’s Momento is the perfect example who lacks the capacity to store new events and he’s thus lived in the eternal world of perception. Leonard is cognizant of the fact that time passes, but he is completely unaware of events that occurred within that time. Hyperthymesia, on the other hand, offers a wide range of space for past events. Hyperthymestic individuals (for e.g. Jorge Luis Borges’s “Funes, His Memory) possess flood of memories as they remember every single event that occurred in their life.

Similarities Between the Two Conditions

What is the mutual characteristic that both these extremities of mind share with each other? The obvious commonality that exists in hyperthymestic individual and the one having amnesia is their shared impairment of memory. The fact of the case claims that the central character’s memory goes impair which is why they had to live with that disability. While impairments in both these disorders are diametrically opposite, their fight to recover and bring semblance of life are remarkably alike. This point out the fact that memory plays a pivotal role in crafting an outer persona as well as inner identity. You cannot think of modernizing an identity without memory.

It is imperative that we must evaluate each of the disorders separately if we intend to explore the difficulties offered by both of these. Leonard undergoes chronic anterograde amnesia caused by trauma. Here the word ‘Chronic’ is important to draw the distinction because the aftereffects of posttraumatic amnesia sometimes lead to temporary disorders; this means that brain will heal with the passage of time and it regains the skill to store new memories. As for the Lenny in Momento, he seems like he’s trapped forever in the foreseeable future. For Lenny, foreseeable future does not exist—as he fails to develop new memories, as he fails to measure the quantity of time—he only exists in the dogma of his own perception. However, this does not suggest that Leonard is unaware of the events occurring in his life. He does realize that life around him is continuously going. He also knows that Sun alters its position as the day ends. But he fails to remember what he did the whole day. Every now and then, Lenny figures that he is in a strange place and thus he realizes he’s changed his position, but how gets there always remains a mystery.

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The Case of  Funes and Leonard

The reduced awareness of Lenny is actually the procedural memory at work, information stored does not seem to rely on deliberate recalling. Oddly enough, the diverse number of human experiences retain in the mechanisms of declarative memory, the memory of events one is mindful of absorbing—the section of Lenny’s memory that is not working. It becomes for a person like Lenny to picture a real world since he does not remember what he did in the last five minutes and he always seems to live in the perceptual world.

On the contrary, Funes present an altogether different picture. He was born in the world of hyperawareness where every single event, every single thing that ever happened to him, seemed to be stored forever and thus can be recalled any time. He does not forget a bird he sees while passing, he does not forget the conversation he had with someone few years back, he even remembers the weather conditions on the specific day. This condition is described as ‘Hyperthymesia’ in psychological terms. Funes possess the unique ability to recollect event the minutest details of his life—and he does it as if event has just happened.

Funes’ condition created a godlike state of perception, in which his own face in the mirror, his own hands, surprised him every time he saw them” (Borges, 136).

It so happens that whenever Funes sees his hands or face, they present an entirely new picture—totally different from the one he saw few moments ago. It is because of this reason that Funes is unable to link (together) all the objects he saw, person he met, or the work he did. All these things seem like archetypes for Funes. Therefore, we can assume that although the mechanisms of breakage (in Lenny and Funes) are opposite, their words are fractured in a similar fashion.

Both Funes and Lenny have to craft a system that must be designed to ensure the proper communication with the external world, even though these systems echoes the unique psychological conditions possess by each of these individuals. It would be correct to say that Lenny’s system is entirely based on physical actions, since he does not rely on his mental faculties to stitch the events he did. Consequently, he has developed a habit of writing everything as it happens, in a specific handwriting he trusts. It is curious that he perceives his system as ironclad but in reality it is no less feeble than Leonard himself. Every Leonard’s action suggests the past act that he did in the last five minutes, rendering him inoperative to fashion an entirely new perception.

 

 

What is Hyperthymesia? The Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM)

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Hyperthymesia

Hyperthymesia 

Hyperthymesia is extremely unique neurological condition in which people used to remember practically every detail of their life. They seem to recall every single event that has happened to their lives. It is curious that these people spend a large amount of time whilst reminding the past events. You may not remember as to what you were doing in the same day last week, what you ate, what you wore, whom did you meet, but people having hyperthymesia are capable to tell you precisely all these. It appears as if there is a recording device in the brain where everything has been amazingly stored. However, their memory is only limited to their own life-events which is why it is also called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM) or Hyperthymesia Syndrome.

While condition of hyperthymesia enables you to remember almost anything, it leaves some harmful effects on the thinking ability. AJ is one such example as she suffers from major disruption due to the flood of memories. She is often exhausted by the uncontrollable stream of memories and for her it is simply a burden. It seems as if she gets lost in the world of remembering things. As it turns out, AJ lives in her past and never bothers too much about future or even present life.

How was Hyperthymesia first Discovered?

The first of the neurologists and researchers who described the term hyperthymesia were James McGaugh, Larry Cahill, Elizabeth Parker, and Dr. Paul Tejera of the University of California. These researchers had recognized the case of a woman (AJ) who could bring practically every event to her mind. This is almost impossible for an average person. They divided hyperthymesia into two broad classifications; i) the person who spends most of his/her time while recalling the past events, and; ii) the one who possess an exceptional ability to evoke events relating to his/her past.

The Californian researchers came out some of the most bizarre facts about hyperthymesia that is to say, the individuals possessing exceptional memory can only remember those events that bear personal importance for them. The hyperthymestic individuals are believed to have uncontrollable associations while they recall a date or event, and they visualize the dramatic reflection of that event within their minds. It is curious that these superhumans recall past memories without putting too much stress on their minds. It’s like they are not doing anything extraordinary.

hyperthymesia

In order to understand the concept of Hyperthymesia, we assume the difference between exceptional memory in which individuals employ usual tactics (such as mnemonics) to recall past events, and Hyperthymesia when individuals do not employ deliberate approaches. Hyperthymestic individuals believe to possess events that are attached to their personal life, that is not to say, it is derived through mnemonic tactics. In fact, hyperthymestic individuals automatically evoke incidents in the same way as the computer does. This is an absolute non-deliberate act.

What is Amygdala?

An almond-shaped mass of nuclei, amygdala, exists in the temporal lobe of human brain. Amygdala is fundamentally related with memory-storage involving emotional events. This limbic structure comes into play while we undergo several emotions that is to say pleasure, anger, happiness, or fear. Amgydala is primarily responsible for deciding what memory is stored in which part of the brain. Scientists believe that this decision relies on the extent to which an event arouses emotional response.

Does Amygdala play a Significant Role in Autobiographical Memory (AM)?

It is reasonable to assume that Amygdala plays an imperative role in the autobiographical memory (AM) because it is associated with the AM core network. As such, evidence did suggest that it helps in encrypting stimuli that are emotionally charged. Having said that, however, latest findings have denied all these circumstantial evidences and argue that it is nothing but a mere speculation.

Hyperthymestic Individuals examined in the University of California, Irvine

Eleven individuals are thought to have Hyperthymesia and the latest findings are based on these individuals. All these HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) participants were recognized on the basis of screening tests which they underwent. They were not only examined for events that were publicly known but were also assessed for memories which were associated with their personal being. Scientists obtained structural MRI scans of their entire brains. The upshots of the findings were remarkable; all the HSAM contributors performed better at recollecting not only public events and personal occurrences but also the dates on which these events took place. These new findings brought many new questions into the neurobiology of autobiographical memory.

In the University of California, Irvine, scientists evaluated the brain of eleven participants by assessing their brain structure as well as cognitive function. In the cognitive assessment, scientists carried out a research on the battery of memory tests with respect to their autobiographical memory. Scientists claim that they observe a significant difference in the neuroanatomy of HSAM participants as against those who employ structural MRI. The evidence suggests that the brain structure primarily rely on two things; i) change in behavior, ii) change in memory.

Different Memory Tests

  1. Names to Faces
  2. Visual Memory
  3. Forward and backward digit span
  4. Visual Reproduction
  5. Logical Memory test
  6. Verbal Paired Associates
  7. Leyton Obsessional Inventory Score-Short Form (LOI-SF)
  8. Edinburg Handedness Inventory (EHI)
  9. Becks Depression Inventory II (BDI)