Have you ever been in a rush to leave your apartment and then not remember where you left your keys? In frustration you tediously scour every corner of your room, in every place you thought you might have left it? I bet we all get that sometimes. “If I could just remember where I left those darn keys!” If only you could remember. Why are we blessed with memory when memory seems to be so unreliable at times?
Well, that’s not true for all people. Some people will remember, everything – even if they didn’t want to. Yes, there is an extremely rare condition called Hyperthymesia, or “piking,” in which a person is diagnosed to have an extremely exceptional ability to recall personal memories.
These people with piking are able to recall, in vivid detail, almost every day of their lives. When glancing upon a date, or when mentioned one, they are often able to recall up to the most insignificant detail relating to something that might have transpired that day. An unusual hat a stranger was wearing, the color of her teacher’s blouse, or even what movie was out in theaters – all as if simply remembering what day of the week it was.
A study published in the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory tested the superior memory of these savants compared to other people without the disorder. Surprisingly, the people with piking did not really score higher on the routine memory tests conducted. It was only when asked questions about their personal life involving years after the age of 10 in which they were able to recall memories in near perfect detail. It was concluded that these Hyperthymestic people only had the memory advantage and a higher recall in detail when the memories were involving them.
“People diagnosed with piking are not pure memory experts. They’re not the same as those you’d normally see winning a memory championship who can remember the nth decimal place of pi. It’s quite interesting because although their memory recall is amazing, it is a selective form of recall.”
Senior Author of the Study
The next step is to try to understand the processes behind memory. What causes these people to have an amazing memory recall, and why only to a specific part? Who know what the future holds? Maybe in a few years this can be fully understood and a new way of harnessing that potential brain power might be invented. But for now, all of us without Hyperthymesia probably should just start putting our keys by the front door counter all the time, or the bedside table, or in the fridge if that suits your fancy.
Note: The key (no pun intended) here is to leave your keys in the same place, always.