About 15 years ago, prompted by a distressed letter from a 34-year-old woman who could precisely recall each and every thought she’d had during each and every day of her life, a team of scientists at U.C., Irvine, discovered an ability they named “Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory,” or HSAM. To date, 56 people have been identified as possessing a structural difference in their brain that allows them to swiftly and vividly recall their life’s events — from the mundane to the monumental — usually starting around early adolescence (Marilu Henner is among this elite squad of people with super-memories).
Whereas those with other elevated recall abilities can remember physical details with remarkable precision, people with HSAM, while having these abilities to a certain extent, specialize in the personal, the emotional. They are master autobiographers able to remember exactly what they were doing, thinking, and, perhaps most important, feeling at any given moment in time. Science of Us spoke with Joey DeGrandis, a 30-year-old New Yorker who has HSAM, to learn more about life with the condition.