Tuesday, June 08, 2010
A case of hyperthymesia / hyperthymestic syndrome in a famous autistic person?
I was recently looking through some articles about the Pulitzer Prize winning music critic Tim Page, who has Asperger syndrome, and as I scanned down to the end of a 2009 newspaper review of Page's 2007 memoir by Janet Maslin, I was struck by some similarities between the description of Page in the last two paragraphs of the article and descriptions that I have read of Jill Price, a woman who came into to public eye a few years ago as the first scientifically identified case of hyperthymestic syndrome, a brain-based condition characterised by a very extraordinary autobiographical memory. Jill Price has described herself as a person who constantly involuntarily relives memories, some going back many years, and who is often troubled by memories.
The researchers who described Price as their "patient" in a medical journal paper theorised that hyperthymesia or hyperthymestic syndrome is in some way linked with atypical brain development, but claimed that Price was not autistic. Since hyperthymestic syndrome has had some publicity in the popular media, other possible cases of the condition have been identified, and not surprisingly some of these people are autistic. I have identified an autistic savant who was the subject of a book chapter by the late biologist Stephen Jay Gould as a probable case of hyperthymesia. The fascinating autistic identical twin women Florence 'Flo' and Katherine 'Kay' Lyman also appear to have memory abilities of the type and level of hyperthymesia. Have I identified another fascinating autist who has a hyperthymestic memory?
The article about Tim Page by Janet Maslin describes a man who has an active life in the present but also lives in the past, which is in some ways similar to the people with hyperthymestic syndrome who have been described in the popular media, such as Jill Price and Brad Williams, who apparently like to keep collections of stuff from the past. I've discovered a story about the Lyman twins on the internet which features a photo of the twins both wearing T-shirts with "70's Preservation Society" written on them. There is a definite pattern here.
Maslin, Janet (2009) Reflections on a life lived way outside the box. New York Times. September 2nd 2009.
[about Tim Page]
(2009?) Twin savants fixated on Dick Clark. Jezebel.
Jill Price - list of references
Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2010) Hyperthymesia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
My article about the possible hyperthymesia in an autistic savant described by Gould