What if you could remember everything that ever happened to you? You could remember what you were wearing, what you ate, what the weather was like exactly ten years ago. It seems impossible, doesn't it?
Yet, it's possible. This is a phenomenon called Hyperthymesia.
Hyperthymesia is derived from the words thymersis, which means remembering, and hyper, which means excessive. It was coined by Irvine, a neurobiologist at The University of California after studying Jill Price's ability to recall events in great detail. It is also known as hyperthymestic syndrome or piking.
Jill Price was the person that brought these phenomena into light when she emailed Jim McGaugh claiming that she could remember everything that had happened to her since she was 12 years old. She was tested after that and there were diaries that her information could be compared as well.
She was later tested about the appointments and could recall every single event. There are other people that deal with this. The most famous person to have this ability is Marilu Henner.
This is an extremely rare condition.
So far, there have been only 33 people in the world who have this. They could tell you what they did on any given date, from when they were 10 years old to the present with detail. They can even remember what happened to them as children, but their memory is more vivid for events that happened after the age of 10 or 12.
They have their brains set up as databases that remember unusual details. When they try to remember, they can see what happened on that day in their head and recall the events. They tend to have a superior memory for dates.
The other traits they might have include spending a lot of time thinking about what happened in the past. They have a very high concentration, where they can block out any distractions in the surrounding. Yet, they are also easily distracted by memories and are more likely to fantasize and daydream.
You might think that their memory is just a lot better than other people, but it is a selective process. They might be able to tell you what they had for breakfast on February 13, 1997, but that does not mean they can list a long number or remember historical facts better than anyone else.
Their autobiographical memory is also different from other kinds of memories such as implicit memory, mnemonic memory, photographic memory, and flashbulbs memory. They are still affected by false memories just as anybody else.
Their brain is structured a little differently from everyone else.
There is a stronger white matter found between their mid and forebrain. The region of their brain that is associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is larger than average. Due to this, they have OCD tendencies.
There are benefits and disadvantages to having hyperthymesia.
They can remember anything they need that can bring back good memories or help them win arguments—though it may not be a good thing for the person on the other side of the argument and may create problems in the relationship. They can remember both good and bad memories like it just happened yesterday with the same emotional intensity, which can be wonderful or a burden.
If you are diagnosed with hyperthymesia, then consult a doctor about a management plan as it can be mentally exhausting.