Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brains are different in people with highly superior autobiographical memory

Date:
July 30, 2012
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Scientists have discovered intriguing differences in the brains and mental processes of an extraordinary group of people who can effortlessly recall every moment of their lives since about age 10.

UC Irvine scientists have discovered intriguing differences in the brains and mental processes of an extraordinary group of people who can effortlessly recall every moment of their lives since about age 10.
Credit: James Steidl / Fotolia

UC Irvine scientists have discovered intriguing differences in the brains and mental processes of an extraordinary group of people who can effortlessly recall every moment of their lives since about age 10.

The phenomenon of highly superior autobiographical memory -- first documented in 2006 by UCI neurobiologist James McGaugh and colleagues in a woman identified as "AJ" -- has been profiled on CBS's "60 Minutes" and in hundreds of other media outlets. But a new paper in the peer-reviewed journal Neurobiology of Learning & Memory's July issue offers the first scientific findings about nearly a dozen people with this uncanny ability.

All had variations in nine structures of their brains compared to those of control subjects, including more robust white matter linking the middle and front parts. Most of the differences were in areas known to be linked to autobiographical memory, "so we're getting a descriptive, coherent story of what's going on," said lead author Aurora LePort, a doctoral candidate at UCI's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory.

Surprisingly, the people with stellar autobiographical memory did not score higher on routine laboratory memory tests or when asked to use rote memory aids. Yet when it came to public or private events that occurred after age 10, "they were remarkably better at recalling the details of their lives," said McGaugh, senior author on the new work.

"These are not memory experts across the board. They're 180 degrees different from the usual memory champions who can memorize pi to a large degree or other long strings of numbers," LePort noted. "It makes the project that much more interesting; it really shows we are homing in on a specific form of memory."

She said interviewing the subjects was "baffling. You give them a date, and their response is immediate. The day of the week just comes out of their minds; they don't even think about it. They can do this for so many dates, and they're 99 percent accurate. It never gets old."

The study also found statistically significant evidence of obsessive-compulsive tendencies among the group, but the authors do not yet know if or how this aids recollection. Many of the individuals have large, minutely catalogued collections of some sort, such as magazines, videos, shoes, stamps or postcards.

UCI researchers and staff have assessed more than 500 people who thought they might possess highly superior autobiographical memory and have confirmed 33 to date, including the 11 in the paper. Another 37 are strong candidates who will be further tested.

"The next step is that we want to understand the mechanisms behind the memory," LePort said. "Is it just the brain and the way its different structures are communicating? Maybe it's genetic; maybe it's molecular."

McGaugh added: "We're Sherlock Holmeses here. We're searching for clues in a very new area of research."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aurora K.R. LePort, Aaron T. Mattfeld, Heather Dickinson-Anson, James H. Fallon, Craig E.L. Stark, Frithjof Kruggel, Larry Cahill, James L. McGaugh. Behavioral and neuroanatomical investigation of Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM). Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 2012; 98 (1): 78 DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2012.05.002

Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Brains are different in people with highly superior autobiographical memory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120730170341.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2012, July 30). Brains are different in people with highly superior autobiographical memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120730170341.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Brains are different in people with highly superior autobiographical memory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120730170341.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins