How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
Not that I’d know, of course.
Every now and again a new disease or condition pops up, one that is so bizarre it is as though it was invented by an overly creative sadist with too much time on his hands. Which, if you believe in an interventionist god, maybe it was.
Today’s is hyperthymestic syndrome. An article from ABC News describes a woman who posseses perfect memory. Literally. Ask her what happened on November 6, 1988, and she’ll tell you the day of the week, news headlines, and what she had for breakfast. Her condition, which thus far appears to be unique to her, is being studied by researchers at the University of California in Irvine.
The woman is known only as “AJ,” and we only know about her because she graciously turned herself over to neurologists who have put her through exhaustive testing in the hopes of learning more about her, thereby learning more about memory in general and how our brains operate. The brain is like deep space — we have a general idea of what’s going on, but there’s still a helluva lot left to discover. The only difference is that unlike deep space, we carry our brains around with us in our noggins. That should be obvious, but I thought I’d point it out anyway so that I could use the word “noggin.”
The article linked to above does a good job of giving us an overview of where the research is at the moment, but (possibly due to the woman’s desire for anonymity) we have no real idea of how this affects her everyday life. Researchers point out that she isn’t like savants of the past, who may remember every detail about the invention of Corn Pops but nothing about how to operate a blender. She appears to function normally, yet maintain a completely accurate memory about everything, whether the memory makes an emotional impact on her or not.
I can’t imagine many fates worse. Maybe that’s being dramatic, but think about it — she remembers every dumb thing she ever blurted out at a dinner party. Every scraped knee. Every moment of every crappy relationship.
On the flipside, she would also remember all of the happy little details that we tend to lose track of as we grow older. I wonder if it all balances out? I’d love to have lunch with her to find out whether she thinks it’s a blessing or a curse, or neither or both; and whether she’d give all the memories back if she could.
If you had the option, would you choose to have a perfect memory?
I believe the butterfly in the photo is named Parnassius mnemosyne orientalis, but I’m not sure why. BugGirl?