5 Stories of People Who Remember Everything | Iris Reading
5 Stories of People Who Remember Everything

5 Stories of People Who Remember Everything

5 Stories of People Who Remember Everything

A rare condition called Hyperthymesia causes people to have such a strong autobiographical memory that they can remember everything that occurred in their lives. Every person they have seen, every emotion they experienced, and every conversation they have had, these people remember everything.    

Also called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), Hyperthymesia is so rare that only about 62 people worldwide are documented to have it. While the exact cause for this condition is still largely unknown, some researchers believe it to have a genetic component. 

People with Hyperthymesia can remember every detail of their lives, no matter how mundane or insignificant. While it might seem like an advantage in certain aspects of life, the cost of being able to remember everything can take its toll on a person’s psyche. 

What follows are fascinating stories of five individuals diagnosed with Hyperthymesia and how they deal with it in their daily lives. 

1. Jill Price 

Jill Price was the first person in the world to receive a Hyperthymesia diagnosis. She is an author based in Southern California. Her case kick-started the research into this strange but fascinating condition.

Price can vividly recall every day of her life since she was fourteen years old. She says she can remember every day of her life starting from February 5, 1980. She was the first person studied by a research team at the University of California, Irvine.

Price was born on December 25, 1965, in the heart of New York City. Her father was a talent agent with William Morris, and her mother was a former variety show dancer. When Price was 5, the family moved to New Jersey. 

The family moved to Los Angeles in the spring of 1974, when Jill was about eight and a half years old. It was during this time, she claims, that something happened in her brain. 

Jill says that when the family moved to Los Angeles, she knew nothing would be the same again. She never liked change and decided to commit the world she left behind in New Jersey to her memory. She took many pictures, made several entries in her journal, and kept every trinket and knickknack they had in their home. 

In her late 50s, Price still remembers every detail of every day she lived since 1980. She remembers every conversation she ever had and every person she ever met in her life. She can actively recall every detail of her life in a heartbeat. 

When asked about how she feels about having this supposed ‘superpower,’ Price says that being able to remember everything can be maddening at times; everything she sees or hears can bring back memories. 

According to an interview given to The Guardian, Price said that whenever she sees a date flash on the television, she is automatically taken back to that day in her life. She can remember what she was doing, who was with her, and just about every other detail. According to her, this is not good for her mental health. She says that while many regard having a perfect memory as a blessing, it is nothing short of a nightmare for her.  

She says living through your entire life every day can be maddening; you remember things that you want to forget but can’t. Moving on after a tragic event in life is particularly hard for Jill. 

While some people have doubted her perfect autobiographic memory as confirming an autobiographical account can be tricky, Price’s case is different. She has kept detailed journals that she writes every day without fail. 

One might think having a perfect memory must be a great asset during school, but Jill says that school was ‘torture’ for her. She had a really difficult time remembering facts and figures. Over time it became clear to researchers that Price’s autobiographical memory was exceptional, but when it came to remembering details that did not relate to her personally, she struggled. 

When researchers asked her to memorize a bank of random numbers and arrange them in order using her memory, her performance was average. 

Price’s memory is great at sorting and storing details that pertain to her, that are important to her, just like yours. However, she is exceptionally better at retaining and retrieving those memories, while most are not. 

Currently, Price resides with her parents in Southern California. She last appeared for an interview in 2017 for The Guardian. 

2. Bob Petrella

Bob Petrella is a comic turned TV producer and writer. He was the fourth person in the world diagnosed with (HSAM). Like Price, Bob also can remember every detail of his life down to the minute. 

He says he always knew that he had a good memory but never considered it exceptional or noteworthy. He used to impress family and friends regularly with his remarkable recall of events and dates. 

He is a self-proclaimed Pittsburgh Steelers fan and remembers every game the team has played since he started following them in the late 80s. He can recall the score of every game the Steelers ever played and give you the details in a heartbeat. 

After Jill Price’s study was featured all over the news, one of Bob’s friends suggested he visit the University of California, Irving, research team to learn more about the science behind his spectacular memory. He was soon referred to Elizabeth Parker, one of the original team members that studied Jill’s case. 

After meeting Bob a few times and conducting several recall tests and ECG scans, Dr. Parker confirmed that Bob, like Jill, had Hyperthymesia. Both Bob and Jill have a lot in common when it comes to the time when things changed in their life and unlocked their super memory. 

For Bob, it was when he was seven years old, playing a very enjoyable game in his backyard with one of his childhood friends. The next day, when Bob invited his friend over to play again, they could only play the game for a few minutes before getting bored. It was then, Bob claims, that he realized that nothing is going to say the same forever, and he must remember things before they change. 

Many scientists now believe that the anxiety that both Bob and Jill experienced as children about forgetting memories might have something to do with their superior memory. 

Bob says his memory is also prone to distortions, much like everyone else’s. The conflation of time, editing, and assumptions are part and parcel of making memories, and Bob has to deal with them too. 

Bob was featured on shows like 60 Minutes, Nightline, and The view multiple times over the last decade. These days, he occasionally goes on a lecture circuit, teaching people how they can improve their memory. 

3. Marilu Henner

Marilu Henner is an American actress best known for her role in the television series Taxi. She was diagnosed with HSAM in 2008 after the media popularized Jill Price’s case. 

Marilu recalls that she has had an excellent memory since she was about 5 or 6. She said in an interview that when she was 5, she could tell people when she saw them last, where they went, and what conversations they had. 

Most people were impressed by her ability to remember such vivid details. Friends and family started calling her ‘Little Miss Memory’ and the ‘Memory Kid’! 

Every time anyone in her family wanted to know about dates or events in their lives, they would ask Marilu, and she would never disappoint. She recalls that every one of her five siblings was very smart and had good memories, but she knew that there was something special about her. 

Marilu was featured in 2009 on an episode of 60 Minutes titled “Memory Wizards.” Before this episode’s filming, she was tested for the condition. Along with her segment on the show, she also filmed another piece of 60 Minutes where she underwent an MRI while answering 500 questions. 

Marilu was a gifted student, but she attributes her academic success to her family and mentors more than her superior memory. For some people, a diagnosis of HSAM can be frustrating. However, Marilu says that she enjoys the ability to recall every event in her life. 

Jill Price, who was the first person diagnosed with HSAM, said in an interview that it is taxing to be able to remember every detail of your life. However, the situation is quite different with Marilu. She says it is natural for everyone to remember bad memories, and she does too, but being able to remember the good ones cushions her from the impact. 

Marilu lost her parents at an early age, and having a perfect biographic memory, it is impossible to forget the pain and sense of loss. However, she says having a treasure trove of memories of them is a great comfort for her. Unlike Price, Marilu seems to have fewer issues regarding the emotional aspects of the bad memories.  

In one of the most interesting incidences in her book Total Memory Makeover, she explains how her father caught her making out with one of the waiting staff at a vacation resort. She writes that she can remember vividly how her father saw her by the poolside. While the memory is sad and intense, she says she won’t lose the memory for the world. She feels lucky to have all memories of her parents – good, bad, and ugly – and cherishes them. 

Marilu is still active in showbusiness and served as a consultant on the television show Unforgettable, which aired on CBS from 2011 to 2014. 

4. Aurelien Hayman

Aurelien was a 20-year-old student from Cardiff in 2012 when he realized that he had an amazing ability to remember everything that had happened in his life for the past nine years. To the tee, he could remember everything that had happened to him in the last nine years. 

Hayman was tested by Giuliana Mazzoni, a psychology professor from the University of Hull. The team under Mazzoni asked Hayman a series of factual questions that confirmed that he had HSAM.

Hayman was one of the youngest persons to have been diagnosed with HSAM at the age of just 20. When interviewed by the Daily Mail, he described his memory as a series of images with no gaps. He can accurately remember everything that happened to him every day, from what the weather was like and whom he met. 

Like others on this list, Aurelien’s memory is also autobiographical. When asked whether memory helps him study, he said it is of little help. While he can remember what he did on a specific day of the year, he is average when remembering facts and mathematical formulae. 

One thing that works for Hayman is that his memories are not intertwined with his emotions like Jill Price’s. He can recall the facts and figures without dealing with the act’s emotional baggage. 

Unlike Jill price or Bob Petrella, Hayman can’t pinpoint an event that might have triggered his recall ability. He says he realized he could remember everything when he was nine years old while conversing with one of his friends. 

Most people are amazed at how good his memory is; it is a routine affair for this Cardiff boy. He says that having this exceptional memory is neither a benefit nor a hurdle in his daily life. 

Hayman has been featured in several articles and television shows for his exceptional memory. 

5. Nima Veiseh

Nima Veiseh is an academic researcher at George Washington University and a professional painter. He was diagnosed with HSAM in his 30s. Like the others mentioned on this list, Nima can also vividly remember all events in his life since he was 15 years old. 

While speaking to one of the new outlets, Nima said that his brain started recording every memory he made in high school. Towards the end of high school, some of his friends noticed something strange about Nima’s memory. He could remember events, dates, names, and conversations much better than his peers. 

After graduating high school, Nima went on to study in College, and it was here that the accumulation of memories started to become overwhelming for him. He started reaching out to professionals to understand what was happening and how to manage the chaos of memories that was building up in his brain. 

While speaking to The Takeaway, Nima said that his memories are akin to a VHS tape that he can rewind and go through in his head as if he is reliving them. He says he experiences almost an entire year of his life daily, taxing his mental health. 

He says that having a name for his condition and knowing that he is not alone with this ability is a great relief. Nima says that being able to recall events in such great detail was overwhelming in the beginning, but now that he has had enough time to process it, he sees the brighter side. 

Nima says that having Hyperthymia helped him understand how his brain stores memories and understand others as well. Nima identifies forgiving someone as one of the most difficult things he struggles with due to his perfect recall. He explains that he had to genuinely learn how to forgive people as the memories never go away.

According to the young painter, he has struggled for years to live with some of the bad memories. However, since his diagnosis, he has worked with several mental health professionals and learned how to deal with bad memories and cope with the sense of loss and tragedy. 

Nima struggled with coming to terms with his ability and did not reveal his problems to his parents for a long time. It was only after one of his college professors helped him understand the issue that he was able to communicate the case with his parents.

According to him, there is no familial history of such a condition that he knows. He hopes that cases like his can be used to study how memories are formed, and the data might be useful for understanding the brain’s cognitive function. 

Nima is a successful painter now who goes by the pseudonym EnigmaofNewYork. 

The common thing in all these stories is that the ability to have seemingly unlimited memory comes with a huge disadvantage. Not being to forget traumatic or sad events can be very difficult to deal with for most people on this list.  

Wrapping up

The ability to remember every little detail in your life might seem a valuable gift, but it comes with limitations. People with Hyperthymesia need to learn to live with good, bad, or ugly memories.

While you might not want to have Hyperthymesia, having a strong memory has its perks. Imagine how your life could change if you effortlessly remembered facts, figures, and other important things. 

Thankfully, you can work to improve your memory using various methods such as Loci and mnemonic devices. Here at Iris Reading, we offer Advanced Reading Comprehension and Memory courses. The course is designed to help you learn tricks and strategies to improve your memory.

We also offer courses on personal productivity, and our speed reading tool can help you improve your reading speed. Register today!

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