Our memories and our ability to retrieve them from our minds play a large role in daily life, working to shape our past thoughts and experiences into individual personalities that make us each unique. In the opening paragraph of Chapter 7: Memory in our Lilienfeld textbook, the authors tell a story of a woman known as A.J. who has hyperthymestic syndrome. This rare condition allows her to retrieve memories of past experiences from any moment in her life with incredible detail, such as what she did and what she was wearing. Although many of us think we would like to have this condition, A.J. sees it as both a curse and a blessing to be able to remember every part of your past experiences. However, hyperthymestic syndrome differs from other memory altering conditions such as autism in that individuals who suffer from it are able to carry on mostly normal lives. A good example of this is the case of Marilu Henner, a television actress who also suffers from hyperthymestic syndrome. Living with her condition, she has had a very successful career, including her role in the show Taxi. Her remarkable memory capabilities are very intriguing and even led to the new show Unforgettable on CBS this fall. Henner currently works as a consultant for the show in which the main character plays a gifted detective with the same syndrome.
Conditions of incredible memory are very rare and are often the result of a certain genetic trait expressed throughout the brain. But how much of it is actually genetic is still unknown. Gianni Golfera is a man with an incredible memory, most likely the result of some genetic condition. But Gianni also spends much of his time studying and learning how to improve his memory capabilities. In the video linked below, Gianni shows his remarkable ability to recall a long list of random numbers with ease. He explains that anyone can improve their memory with practice and has developed his own memory improvement techniques. So how much of our capability to remember genetic and how much of it is learned through practice? Each of us may not be able to recall every day of our past, but how much can we improve our memory?