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)

Just in case you’re interested: Hypervitaminosis and Diabetes


    • 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?

    • Karen, I relate to each and every one of your ‘symptoms’ (if that’s the correct word) especially with respect to colors, smells and sounds, not to mention being the product of a violent, dysfunctional family. Several weeks ago I attempted to seek therapy. The professionals I was referred to never heard of hyperthymesia, and I’m still on the hamster wheel trying to get some assistance in understanding this. I’ve emailed UCI, but it seems as if they only talk to calendrics. Hope you’ve had better luck.

  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.

      • hi,i would like to talk with you two or with your friend,,im just 17 n i dont think i suffer from hsam but i would like to know more,believe me i find it very interesting,,please contact me at klaudia_curri@hotmail.com or on my fb site klaudia curri

    • Hello, I have a similar experience with these memories. I don’t recall all numbers and dates but I do better than most. I actually recall how I felt at each moment, which brings everything else back to mind (weather, smells, some dates or days of the week, people present,etc).

    • I do know what you’re saying. I remember my earliest memory of seeing my dad sitting on the edge of my parents bed crying. My mother was gone and I felt scared. Later, I found out that my mother had been in a car accident. Her back was broken. I’ve come to realize that I’m the freak of my family… mostly because I remember everything. Too many things. I have been diagnosed with mental illness, given drugs that hurt more than helped. I’ve been given electric shock treatment on at least 3 occasions ( this actually helped). My mom told me that the school said I was autistic. I’ve stopped speaking to most people. I take medication that they give to soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress disorder. I think that, if there’s no help out there, maybe we should try to make a place or a site where people can come together and help each other.

  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

  8. ik ben cor.n.h.postema ik woon in Beverwijk Noord- Holland Nederland Alkmaarseweg 294 1944 dw
    Nederland,,,ik ben behept met een fotografisch geheugen of eidetisch geheugen en ik begon een campagne om deze aan doening in Nederland bekend te maken,,,daar na verder,oke!
    mijn email is corpostema65@gmail.com of 0649772457 geen sms

  9. Hello. I do not want to be “added to a pool of candidates to be investigated.” That’s creepy. I did, however, write a book on the downfall of morality and decency in America with the problems of these fake experts to nudging propaganda from since I was days old in the year 1969, as I remember everything. It is called “Where’s the Humanity: A world filled with misfits, monsters, and perverts.” This book has been purposely buried by the people who are taking down America. They don’t want you to know. Learn something. I also have much more detailed information that I’ve handed behind the scenes to some honest, reliable, decent, people (yes, there are some who still exist) to help them learn how to defeat the enemy from within by knowing everything they have done, (mostly uncomprehending to normal folks) – moment by moment – step by step – year by year – decade to decade – etc, I have actually used this so-called gift to be helpful, I’m great also with psychology of the human mind and people’s mannerisms, as I could quickly pick out every pervert and evil-doer in the crowd. Surely helpful when it comes time to vote. My vote went for Alfred E. Neuman and Howdy Doody. Unfortunatley they did not win.

  10. I can remember things straight from birth ..ie laying in an oxygen tent and nurses checking me over .. Glad i found this post as for so many years i have been told from people close that i couldnt be aware of things before the age of 3 years … So im not mad !!!!

  11. When i was 17, I was given all nine memory tests. By a court ordered state psychological evaluation. My memory test results came back in the superior range. I still have the paperwork to prove it. I am now 43 and i can still remember as far back as when i was 4 years old in clear vivid detail. I’m not very good with dates because i wasn’t interested. However i can remember just about anything iv’e ever read or do read. Repeat sequences of numbers forward and backwards, retain and repeat information either verbally or written, as well as visually. I also remember every single traumatic as well as pleasent event throughout my life and i have suffered from sleeplessness since i was about 13 Do I have HSAM?

  12. Hello, fellow hyperthymesiacs. I learned of this condition earlier this year, when a therapist, watching me perform at a jam session, asked me how I was able to remember the lyrics to thousands of songs, in the correct order the original was recorded, strictly from memory and without reading from a printed page. My response was that I thought it was no big deal – once I learn a song, it stays with me forever, cast in stone in my head somewhere. It was then she suggested I was hyperthymesic, which (she said) is a mild form of autism.

    I never heard the term before, so I Googled it and found it described me more accurately than anything has ever described me… so much so that the more I read, the more the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. Last March I sought therapy in an effort to understand more of this condition, and found most of the therapists I was referred to never heard of hyperthymesia, either. However, I was diagnosed with ADHD and PTSD, the result of a violent, sadistic childhood with drug abuse and alcoholism.

    I’m a vintage car nut, and have owned more than a thousand cars since I was 14. I can instantly recall the license number of every single one, and the VINs of most of those I kept for more than a year or two.

    I was about 14 the first time I heard the term “photographic memory” and I instantly knew what it meant. I have a powerful addiction to color and can mix any color exactly from memory – a feat my mother was also capable of. (She painted pictures, I paint cars.)

    Tastes and sounds are indelibly embedded in my head, and I can tell a difference within a second or two of hearing a song or tasting something to eat, whether it’s the same as the last time I experienced it. When I was an infant I was very fond of chocolate milk, and I drank as much as my mom would give me. But by age 3 or 4 I was burned out on it, and have never had any since, until last month when I impulsively bought a small bottle. I was shocked to find it tasted exactly as I remember it, and the fact that 65 years have elapsed didn’t seem to make a shred of difference.

    I have one brother who was born two years after I was. I recall vividly being the only baby in the house, and the cars I played with and the things I did to amuse myself. I remember my mom holding me in her arms while she cleaned my nostrils. I remember the frustration of not being able to speak coherently when I needed something.

    I have also come to accept some paranormal abilities I’ve apparently had since age 13. The more recent episodes (past twenty years) have been events that took place after having had a dream the night before; these usually involved a death of someone. The majority have been within 24 hours, but one a few years ago spanned five days.

    Now, after reading all these fascinating posts, it’s clear that a lot of your questions appear to go unanswered. I do see the email for the UCI interest, and will immediately follow up.

    Thanks for reading.

  13. it is not a disease it is a sense of inner peace and accepting things. my question is how many people have trouble with perception of time and do they get memories of even coming into their body? another question i have is do they remember time before they were flesh/

  14. to everyone here who believe they have this i would like to ask, do any of you have a dream or memory of being in a group watching reptiles and creatures alike being buried as the ground rolls over to cover them then lava flows over them to make a new earth? in the group one person jokes about going to transfer to a new body by saying maybe i will just get a new body.

  15. Hi. I am somewhat similar, but I can also recall friends memories. So far it has been hell to live with.

    I can remember names with faces, phone numbers, license plates, house addresses, things that happened to other people and especially exact locations where all events took place.

    I specifically recall sentences and things me and other people would discuss from now up until the time I was 4 or 5 years old.

    I also dream about future events and sometimes even visualise it and then in reality these events occur, but only if they were destined to change the world somehow.

    I currently have 2 kids and I am afraid they might have the same problem,

    My main problem is that I automaticaly decode what people think about me, without actually making any physical contact.

    I think I have gone way beyond the limits of HSAM.

    This perception allowed me to recall events in my life, which I could then use to change the world itself.

    My main problem is that this perception has a life of its own and the more I try to control it , the more agresive t becomes.

    My brain starts putting puzzles together and starts solving some of the biggest conspiracies known to man,without me even thinking about it.

    The main problem with this is, I always know when people lie to me or are about to hurt me without anyone telling me in advance.

    My brain is extremely alert all the time.

    I have been able to unravel global politics this way, without even trying.

    I left school when i was 14. I had an IQ score of 185 at that time.

    I need some serious help. This is a real problem for me. I feel like that madman on FRINGE, the American TV show about the scientist who removed a piece of his memory to forget what his plans were.

    Can somebody please help me. I have had some rather weird spiritual past, present and future visions, which I sometimes still encounter. MY DNA and ancestral bloodline, makes these experiences even more bizarre.


    • I have looked into magnetism n special rocks. I bought a matalic black silver ring n has helped me alot over the weeks w these same issues u have. I however am not as smart as you are, 124 is mine. You are a empath also so that means we can hear their thoughts, see visions of the future to help us avoid those situations. I however have tried to change those visions n i believe the future is already determined(well maybe for this reality) magic mushrooms will help u unlock certain things in ur mind. I hope this can b helpful to u cuz i feel like it helps me. It may help u but not sure. Ill pray u find the help. Yes it feels like a curse but i also think its evolution

  16. 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. someone help plz

  17. I believe I have this as well. I can remember being in my crib…a very vivid moment was when my mother couldn’t hear me crying for a few minutes because she was hanging laundry outside. I was scared she had left me alone (which she would never do). I remember details if everything in my life and have always thought everyone else was this way. I have prophetic dreams and am often labeled and “empath”. I don’t remember every date exactly but I remember many details about certain days. I’d like to find out how I can be tested for this.

  18. Please stop calling this ” highly superior”. It is a horrible thing to live on a roller coaster of constant memories. Every moment in this life flashes back to other memories from childhood. Not being able to have a conversation with your adult child without constant flashbacks to your own childhood is embarrassing, to say the least. I see that this is a controversial subject. I think that I would like to find ( or make) a place where people can talk to each other and find some kind of relief. Maybe a Mindfulness blog or something. Mindfulness has been the only relief I’ve found. My friends hate my memory. My family constantly tells me that I’m lying. I just don’t feel “highly superior”

  19. I am suffering from the above HSAM and making me uncomfortable with the situations that which made me to think of it
    Can you find out any solution for it?

  20. Ok so i dont remember my dreams but only a few. When i do dream they become real within 6-10months. I also have hyperthymesia n can remember crawling as a toddler but cant remember last week. I feel like its a burden remembering my past but not immediate past. Is something wrong w me? Or am i just crazy like everyone says i am

  21. My memory contains: numbers, dates, birth dates, tel.numbers, addresses, faces, names, events. They stay vivid although I am now 80 years old. At this stage of life it is entertaining but it was earlier bothering me. I was always alone with these memories. When I recognize a person after not seeing them for 50 years or so, and said their name, they often ask “who are you”. Embarassing!

    I believe that good memory comes with intellectual superiority. Unfortunately things you remember are not always useful stuff. I am comfortable with my “condition”, it keeps me entertained at old age.