The human race has long been fascinated by superpowers. So much so, that many superheroes have been created for our entertainment, with every conceivable type of power. But, what about the power of a super memory? Would that be considered a gift, or a curse? And what if there was a real person born with this gift?
Well, it turns out there is. 42-year old Jill Price, from California, can remember every single event in her life, in chronological order, from the time she was 12. She remembers literally everything that has ever happened to her, and around her, everything that was on television and major world events. Just give her a date from, say, 10 years ago, and she’ll tell you what day of the week it was and everything that happened that day. As remarkable as it may sound, I wonder if this gift of ‘super memory’ is really a gift at all. I mean, there doesn’t seem to be much use it could be put to, not right now anyway. And imagine going through your life remembering everything that ever happened in it. Wouldn’t you agree that there are some things best forgotten?
Photo by Bryce Duffy, via Wired
Jill apparently felt the same way, when she first contacted memory specialists at the University of California-Irvine, asking for ‘help’ with her condition, almost eight years ago. A team led by Dr. James McGaugh has been studying her unique memory ever since, in an attempt to understand it. Although initially skeptical about Jill’s claims, he was later dumbfounded when her memory was put to test. Jill was tested by Dr. McGaugh and his team with a series of questions based out of a master list on a historical almanac. She was asked questions like when Elvis died, or information regarding TV show episodes. It was stunning when she could answer every one of them accurately, even correcting mistakes in the master list.
Price describes her memory as being similar to a movie running in the background. “My memory has ruled my life. I think about the past all the time. It’s like a running movie that never stops. Like, we’re sitting here and I’m talking to you and in my head I’m thinking about something that happened to me in December 1982, it was a Friday, I started work at Gs.” Unfortunately, it’s not only just facts that Jill remembers, but memories as well. Both happy ones, and painful ones. And it is the painful memories that make life hard for her. While regular people are able to forget bad things that happened to them, Jill cannot. The saying, “Time Heals” just does not hold good for her, as she does not forget anything with time.
For now, experts do not seem to have any explanation or cure for this extraordinary condition, but they hope that Jill’s memory will be able to help them understand better, the way the human brain stores information.