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



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.


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)


    • Head to this website and check out the Q&A I posted below. Read the article first to make sure you believe he has this.


      Q: If you believe you have this type of superior memory, how should you contact UCI?
      A: Read the 2006 research paper. If your memory is similar to what is described, please send a message to ultramem@uci.edu with your telephone number so we can contact you and potentially add you to our pool of candidates to be investigated. Memory is important to understand because it is our most precious ability. If we lose our memories, we lose who we are as individuals.

  1. I have just come across the information on HSAM. Little did I. know that this was not a universal fact of the way in which all peoples memories work. Perhaps I have HSAM. There are very few parts of my life that I cannot recall, with not only the memory, but also colors and smells from that memory. I would really like to put this gift to good use.

    I have had a very colorful, unusual, and at times, a dysfunctional past 68 years. Friends and family have often told me I should write a book about my life. Since I love comedy, drama and and sarcasm, the book would be quite comical.

    Is there anyone out there able to give me some direction as to how I might be evaluated in order to,perhaps, be of some help to scientific study of HSAM?

  2. the past is in my memory all the time, I remember the faces the body language, the way they talked, as I remember
    one event dozen more are floating in my brain waiting in line. I also have a paranormal activity.

  3. I am 41 years old and just found out about HSAM.Noone can get a word in because I have a story to tell and yes most of yhe time it’s about me. But also my siblings think I’m telling their story too.Just knowing what I have is enough for me to move on.I used my gift to learn about anything constructoinal and still remember it all.I also thought it was voices in my head but it was me trying to out talk myself with only one mouth.l also draw portraits.Could that have come from HSAM?

  4. I can remember most of my life in complete detail. the past 2 years, i get flashbacks so powerful i can smell the recall, hear the conversations, feel the temperature, humidity of the air etc etc. it really is becoming an ocd. any help or advise ?

  5. Guys do not pay attention to the guy commenting as Edward Samuel Pundyk. He is a clearly an unstable guy on your website who is falsing claiming to have hyperthymesia and is making up garbage, he is clearly nuts. After reading his posts, because they seemed way disturbing and odd, I googled his name and found he killed his mother on October 9th 2015 after which I see no new posts from him. Indicating that is indeed the guy commenting. I believe because his birthname’s initials spell out ESP he has decided to go around pretending he has “special abilities” and claiming to have this condition is one of his idiotic pass times. Please take this seriously as the news reports do not mention he has this condition but have indicated he is mentally ill. He is falsely giving out advice. Your website will lose credibility as this guy has no idea what he is talking about just making random stuff up. “You must have the translucent sheet between you and your recipient without falling into it, just look them in the eyes and focus.” People with this condition will probably be made uncomfortable and creeped out because your staring at them like something is wrong, which will most likely feel weird. I suspect the only reason this guy is claiming to understand “the voice” is because someone else is saying they hear voices and he is simply agreeing that he has it too, to gain credibility. I have yet to hear anything about this condition that includes an audiological component.

  6. Hi, I have no idea what I suffer from, I can recall personal life events, since I was 18 months old, like in my crib, looking at my original ceiling that wasn’t changed till I was 3, (that’s one moment) and crossing my eyes so the square tiles would seem closer, till the ceiling was spackled when I was 4 and escaping from my crib, and working it out, where to put my feet etc….these are memories that I was telling my family happened when I was very small, and have kept till now. I don’t recollect dates that well though by like 4 of january Wed 1986, I don’t recall the numbers. I am 40 now, I can tell you the year, and or how old I was, and the season, but so much happens in a season, or even a day, and before I went to school, I really didn’t read a clock or look at the date. I have been trying very hard to forget as my spouse calls it mundane events, and I need to let go of silly unimportant events and memories, he jokes about how I could tell him what he ate, and when and what happened that day 20 years ago.
    It physically hurts my head now all of these memories, and worst of all, because I remember in video when I recall thing, it’s like reliving everything, a emotional rollercoaster, like my life flashing before my eyes, everyday!, good and bad, my spouse says I should get help because it’s not healthy, and it now taking it’s toll, I went to see a mental health professional, they believe it’s like PTSD, but it’s not all bad memories, it’s everything. I tried to take the online tests, but they seem not to help with my recollection, these are my personal memories, not events, and I am from Canada, so American geared questions have no relevance, also I really didn’t have interest in certain events, I know they happened, but they didn’t affect my life, but my personal life I can recalled scarily and every emotion from playing with the carpet to kindergarten learning to write my name, the stupid frog toy box we played in, learning math, crafts, what we made etc…., and that’s just a tiny tiny fraction to age 5, I cannot remember names of people very well anymore, or phone numbers, but I can tell my friends in lengthy detail what we did in 2000 the whole year once a topic is started at the beginning of the year, then the movie plays in my head for the year in fast forward but I can keep up…..I just either want to let go and forget so I am not frozen with reliving my life everyday in my head, or at least an answer for what is going on with me……if you have any help you can suggest, please, it would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi, I came across your comment while I was looking up hsam. Your description, exactly the same as mine with regard to this recall experience. I don’t remember #s and dates perfectly either but as it turns out I remember them better than average. The things you described about lying in you crib I have similar memories, very vivid, I remember a lot from before the age they say we’re supposed to be able to keep formed memories like (3). I go back to like 10 months old sometimes. I have a theory about what’s up with our type of recall. They say that only 11 recorded people have total autobiographical recall which I’d separate from iodenic memory. But i have a friend who remembers his birth and every second of his life there after and he can access it very quickly like files on a computer’s mainframe. Then I know I get recovered memories very often the older I get. Some very awful and some just plain everyday stuff that “feels creepy” cause why am I first recovering this now ya know ? Then the rest is like hsam no effort just there always, sometimes on a loop endlessly when I’m not keeping myself busy enough or whichever ones are sparked by anything relevant or pertaining to something at the forefront of my mind they’ll be a bit more glaring until I purge them so to speak, either thru talk therapy, or artistically by writing or playing one of my musical instruments. It’s good for people like us. Anyway back to the theory . I don’t believe there can only be 11 or 25 of these people on the planet and I think like with most of these types of things I think it most likely occurs on a spectrum. I mean it had to right? Either that or we used to have perfect recall until something got in its way. I have suffered true psysiological and physical trauma on more than one occasion throughout my life and I have also had epilepsy since I was 5 and a number of concussions. Needless to say these can greatly hinder cognitive function and impair memory. I mean, just taking the meds for it all can mess up my brain and cognitio. So my theory is that this exists on a spectrum and certain things can move you from one end to the other or put in Flux at any given time. Let me know what you think.

  7. Why is this condition only subject to the elite. Anyone who has uncontrollable memory has this . When I was a kid I couldn’t sleep because of memories from Just that day. Uh that makes me think your standards are retarded. I am superior