Sunday, July 15, 2012

And has anyone else noticed this? An apparent case of hyperthymestic syndrome or Superior Autobiographical Memory in the Brainman doco

At 8:50 in the video of the doco Brainman linked to below, a docoumentary which was produced some time around 2005, the story of "acquired savant" and African-American Orlando Serrell is recounted. He apparently sustained an untreated head injury as a boy, and appears to have acquired an ability to recall the day of the week and also the weather for "any date since his accident". Wikipedia tells us that he can also recall what he was doing on dates in the past, to a degree that varies. I've got to wonder why such a big hoo-ha has been made of the case of Jill Price, who has demonstrated similar memory abilities, while the memory researchers who wrote a journal paper about Price (given the pseudonym AJ) and unconvincingly claimed that she was the first known case of "hyperthymestic syndrome" have apparently had nothing to say about the case of Orlando Serrell. Parker, Cahill and McGaugh have also had nothing much to say about the many autistic cases of hyperthymestic syndrome which can easily be identified. It appears that hyperthymestic syndrome, recently unnecessarily renamed as Superior Autobiographical Memory, is a neurological condition reserved for white middle-class American women who have agents, women like the American actress Marilu Henner and the Jewish-American author Jill Price, while "Savant syndrome", with its down-market associations with autism, epilepsy, brain damage and intellectual disability, is seen as an appropriate label for males from less privileged backgrounds.To his credit, savantism researcher Darold Treffert has identified Serrell as a case of hyperthymestic syndrome.  Treffert also identified the autistic Lyman Twins as cases in his book about savantism. Like everything shown in the Brainman documentary, the story of Orlando Serrell should be approached with a degree of skepticism.

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