Not that I can do it, but some can:
The phenomenon of highly superior autobiographical memory -- first documented
in 2006 by UCI neurobiologist James McGaugh and colleagues in a woman identified
as "AJ" -- has been profiled on CBS's "60 Minutes" and in hundreds of other
media outlets. But a new paper in the peer-reviewed journal Neurobiology of
Learning & Memory's July issue offers the first scientific findings
about nearly a dozen people with this uncanny ability.
All had variations in nine structures of their brains compared to those of
control subjects, including more robust white matter linking the middle and
front parts. Most of the differences were in areas known to be linked to
autobiographical memory, "so we're getting a descriptive, coherent story of
what's going on," said lead author Aurora LePort, a doctoral candidate at UCI's
Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory.
Surprisingly, the people with stellar autobiographical memory did not score
higher on routine laboratory memory tests or when asked to use rote memory aids.
Yet when it came to public or private events that occurred after age 10½, "they
were remarkably better at recalling the details of their lives," said McGaugh,
senior author on the new work.
"These are not memory experts across the board. They're 180 degrees different
from the usual memory champions who can memorize pi to a large degree or other
long strings of numbers," LePort noted. "It makes the project that much more
interesting; it really shows we are homing in on a specific form of memory."
She said interviewing the subjects was "baffling. You give them a date, and
their response is immediate. The day of the week just comes out of their minds;
they don't even think about it. They can do this for so many dates, and they're
99 percent accurate. It never gets old."
The study also found statistically significant evidence of
obsessive-compulsive tendencies among the group, but the authors do not yet know
if or how this aids recollection. Many of the individuals have large, minutely
catalogued collections of some sort, such as magazines, videos, shoes, stamps or