Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Super-Autobiographical Memory

Bob Petrella is the 4th person identified with "super-autobiographical memory", which enables almost perfect, date-stamped recall of episodic memory. It is curious that this form of exceptional memory is distinct from photographic or eidetic memory recall, in that it does not include perfect procedural or factual recall. There also appears to be some degree of interference from the recalled memories, which take up some attentional space, if not storage capacity.

Doctors are just beginning to observe, let alone understand, this phenomenon.

"First, three of our four top subjects are left-handed, and our fourth has strong tendencies to be left-handed [but] uses a right hand in writing," said McGaugh. "They all have slightly obsessive tendencies. They save a lot of things. They keep a lot of things. Salvation Army will never get rich off these people because they keep it, and so they covet collections the way they covet their memories. We find that interesting."

Also, it turns out certain parts of the super-autobiographical memory subjects' brains are larger than they are in people who don't have super-autobiographical memory. Also, their potential to store information appears infinite.

"There's no capacity limitation on what we can learn," said McGaugh, "no limit to our capacity to learn."

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