Friday, 8 August 2014

The Woman Who Can't Forget

What a fascinating biography!
Jill Price
   "My memories are like scenes from home movies of every day of my life, constantly playing in my head, flashing forward and backward through the years relentlessly, taking me to any given moment, entirely of their own volition."
   Jill Price has 'hyperthymestic syndrome'- the continuous, automatic, autobiographical recall of every day of her life since she was fourteen.  She is basically a prisoner to her memory, with a condition that had never been diagnosed.  The emotion that comes with the memories is constantly overwhelming.  She often feels like she is going crazy.  Finding a scientist to work with her greatly helped to stabilize her life.
  Although Jill has this unique type of memory, the other aspects of her memory are not great. That really seems impossible.   But she can't memorize poetry or remember numbers. She had trouble in school memorizing history, math, foreign language, and science.  In fact, she needed math tutors from grade two.   Also, the constant rush of personal memories running through her head, made it difficult to concentrate.  So no one understood how distracting this type of memory could be, until she met Dr. McGaugh, a memory expert.
  Although her memories seem random, they are triggered by 'cues', such as a song, a smell, a name or date.  The smell of baked potato, always takes her back to when she was two years old and she can reacall everything about that day.
  The biggest problem with her recall is that it comes with intense emotion.  The rest of us remember events with the emotions dulled by time and perspective.  In fact, the book talks about the importance of memory in developing identity.  "We remember, revise and add to these stories constantly".
  And so, a number of scientists are studying Jill's brain to add to their understand of the function of memory. I enjoyed this book because I am always fascinated with the brain.
 There is a great YouTube video of Jill.  Just google: "The Woman Who Could Not Forget" and you can watch Jill being interviewed by Diane Sawyer.

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