Superior Autobiographical Memory Research

My freshman year of high school my english teacher gave us an assignment that would be worth 50% of our marking period grade. We had to research any topic we wanted to and write a 5 page research paper about it. The topic could be anything we wanted as long as it pertained to the medical field. Unsure of what I wanted to do, I browsed the internet looking for an interesting yet relevant topic to research. Unsatisfied by my findings, I closed my computer and sat down to watch TV with my dad. He was watching a 60 minutes segment and ever since then I feel that I have looked at humans in a different way. The episode was on a newly discovered condition known as “Superior Autobiographical Memory”. It is a condition where people are able to remember vivid details of each day of their life every since they first starting retaining memories. Patients can be told a date in history and tell you what day of the week it was as well as specific information about that day, including what they wore, what they ate and who they were with. Patients were able to relive those days in their minds as if they were actually happening once again. Sometimes this caused a problem for them though as it stirred up bad emotions at times and forces them to relive them.

Needless to say, I chose this as my research paper topic and began researching it any way I could. Because it was relatively new in the medical field, only a handful of articles had been posted about it at the time. The 60 minutes session offered some amazing insight into the condition as it interviewed people who have the condition as well as the leading neurologist studying it. I also tried to learn more about each individual person that had been diagnosed so far in hopes of finding commonalities between them that could maybe explain why they have this condition.

My research was complete when my teacher said I had enough sources and was able to write the required 5 pages for the paper, but my curiosity on the topic continued and I kept up with the news to see if more information was being released on”Superior Autobiographical Memory”. You could imagine my excitement when a few months ago I stumbled upon another 60 minutes episode that did a follow up with the patients they had originally found with this condition as well as new ones they had discovered.

I believe I became so invested in researching and learning about this memory condition because it pushed the boundaries on what we as a human species believe to be humanly possible. 50 years ago if someone were to have written about this in a novel or piece of literature, the character would have been cast as a mutant or superhero that got dipped in a vat of toxic waste when he was a baby. Today, however, discoveries like this are coming true and are happening to the people around us. It opened my eyes and made me question where the line was as to what is/is not humanely possible.

One thought on “Superior Autobiographical Memory Research

  1. The post nicely shows your thought progression and how you went about choosing a topic and writing the paper. Similarly, I also wrote a research paper in high school on any topic that I wanted. I ended up choosing Disney’s rise to becoming a colossal company because I had just earlier that week read an article about it in a magazine. I think it’s interesting that you researched so much as to study each person who has an autobiographical memory. Since you clearly sound interested in the topic, maybe you could have written a sentence or two about whether you’ve continued your research with autobiographical memories since writing the paper. Your point in the last paragraph about how quickly discoveries occur and how fast-paced science is is definitely true, and we’re only going to learn more in the future!


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