Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hyperthymesia or Hyperthymestic syndrome

Here’s another one of those fascinating and interesting neurological peculiarities, along with Asperger syndrome, synaesthesia and Tourette’s. Just call me a neurocase.

Forgetfulness is key to a healthy mind
by Jessica Marshall.
New Scientist. February 16th 2008.

The man with an uncanny memory
by Doug Erickson.
Wisconsin State Journal. February 26th 2008.

Hyperthymesia. (accessed 2008). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Unforgettable: the documentary.

A case of unusual autobiographical remembering
by Elizabeth S. Parker, Larry Cahill and James L. McGaugh.

Neurocase. Volume 12 Issue 1 February 2006. p. 35 – 49.

The woman who can't forget: the extraordinary story of living with the most remarkable memory known to science - a memoir
by Jill Price (with Bart Davis)
Free Press, May 2008.

and this is an excellent book about human memory in general, but does not mention hyperthymestic syndrome:

How the mind forgets and remembers: the seven sins of memory
by Daniel L. Schacter
Souvenir Press, 2001.

I'm quite surprised that even in the few things that I have read about this condition, I've seen no mention of Solomon Shereshevskii, who was "S" in the book The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book About a Vast Memory by A. R. Luria, and I've also seen no mention of Franco Magnani, who is the subject of the chapter The Landscape of His Dreams in the book An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks.

Here are Lili Marlene's higly speculative predictions about this condition:

1. At first it will be regarded as an incredibly rare phenomenon, but in a few years time, if researched in large studies that sample random selections of the population, will be found to be merely uncommon.

2. A good core definition of the condition exists, but individual cases will be found to be heterogenous, with other neurological or psychiatric conditions interacting with Hyperthymestic syndrome, so the boundaries of the definition of this condition will remain unclear.

3. The term Hyperthymestic syndrome will lose popularity in favour of Hyperthymesia, as it will be found that there isn't the clustering of a large number of separate symptoms that can't be otherwise explained, that is the usual thing with medical syndromes.

4. The assertion in popular literature that subjects who have Hyperthymestic syndrome are not autistic will be challenged.

5. Hyperthymestic syndrome will be found to be associated with the relatively indiscriminate or obsessive collecting behaviour that is found in some people diagnosed with OCD, Obessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), Asperger syndrome or even paranoia. Some famous people who possibly had this collecting habit were Andy Warhol, William Shockley, Screaming Lord Sutch and Stanley Kubrick, an interesting collection of personalities for sure. Shockley appears to have had the obsessive interest in autobiographical details that is a characteristic of Hyperthymestic syndrome, but as he is now dead, I doubt that any new evidence for or against Shockley having the condition could be found.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

"Two obsessions are one too many."

- Dr James Watson, Nobel Prize winner, a quote that I believe is from his latest book "Avoid Boring People"

More witty and thought-provoking quotes can be found at:
Quotes that caught Lili’s eye