The traits of people with computer-like memories

People with so-called super-autobiographical memories appear to share certain traits--left-handedness, for example.

It's one thing to have a photographic memory. It's quite another to have something called a super-autobiographical memory.

If your brain is wired super-autobiographically, you really are the weird of the weird. As well as the wired of the wired.

These are people who remember almost everything. Dates, times, names. Yes, even former lovers. The sort of people who remember that they were born on a Wednesday, lost their virginity on a Sunday and were arrested for the first time on a Monday.

And, according to ABC News, there are only four of them. Or, at least, four who have thus far been diagnosed as part of the elite group.

Dr. James McGaugh, the founding director of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine, has begun to study these four computer-brained specimens.

"These are not learning machines. These are not people with so-called photographic memory," he told ABC News. "These are people who learn certain things about their lives and don't forget."

They are also people who appear to have certain things in common. "Three of our four top subjects are left-handed, and our fourth has strong tendencies to be left-handed [but] uses a right hand in writing," said Dr. McGaugh.

April 4 2001. I was walking down here and....darn it, I forget what happened next. CC Wili Hybrid

You will temporarily lose all sense of time and place when you discover that the four have another common trait: obsessiveness.

"They save a lot of things. They keep a lot of things. Salvation Army will never get rich off these people because they keep it, and so they covet collections the way they covet their memories. We find that interesting," said Dr. McGaugh.

Moreover, like Google, the Fanatically Detailed Four appear to have infinite space to store information. Which, unlike Google, is not necessarily a fun thing to have.

"It's like a hard drive," said Bob Petrella, one of the Four. "You want to throw some of these dates in the trash and put more, maybe some creative things on--because they are some inane things, a lot of things."

And some very bad things, too.

Petrella noted: "When I am going through...a bad situation or a bad circumstance. And then I go back and I go, 'boy, this is how I felt on, say, May 3, 1986."

So for every bad current experience, he gets several very accurate and detailed bad memories immediately thrown up by his super-computer memory.

The date that always comes back to haunt me is April 4, 2001. How about you?

 

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