A Look At Memory 2016

Memory has always fascinated me and it’s thrilling to be alive at a time when breakthroughs in our understanding of memory are happening so frequently. I had never heard of Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory before catching a recent (this will slip behind a paywall in a week or so) This American Life episode that features Jill Price discussing how having the extremely rare condition, HSAM for short, has left her ruminating over her husbands passing for years. (More about Jill Price from 60 Minutes Australia here).

As someone who has journaled for most of my adult life the idea of being able to recall every single day in vivid detail seemed thrilling and I wondered if Jill Price’s experience was the norm among people with HSAM. That led to these 60 Minute pieces. The first two are from 2010.


After the show aired, hundreds of people contacted Dr. James McGaugh including the family of 10 year old Jake Hausler who also has HSAM. Scientists at Washington University are working with Jake to try to understand how it’s done.

And finally, ‘Memory Hackers’ from NOVA, has an update on the Jake Hausler research, and also delves into a wide variety of cutting edge memory research.

2 thoughts on “A Look At Memory 2016

  1. Interesting information, John. My interest & comments are regarding a small subset of information in your overall topic.

    I had previously watched the PBS Nova Memory Hackers program & was fascinated with Merel Kindt’s work. As the father of an adult child who experienced a traumatic auto accident, I wonder if her work might also be applicable to alter the memory (or the effect thereof) of events in addition to the broader scope of phobias.

    Thanks for the great work you do at this site.

    • Thanks Alvin! It did sound to me like they were headed in that direction. She seemed very keen to apply the technique to PTSD patients, and with so many veterans affected, there should be funding to move forward. It really does seem like within a few years there could be a protocol for treating people for almost any traumatic event. I did a quick Google Scholar search for ‘Merel Kindt ptsd’ and a few papers came up that would suggest she’s on the case. I noticed that one of the papers she’s mentioned in relates to EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Have you looked into that? When I first looked at it I thought it had to be bunk, but there seem to be quite a few papers that suggest it is effective (resent meta-study but only the Abstract is in English). Though certainly not as effective as what we saw with the spiders in the NOVA piece. Considering that the protocol seems so simple and that the drug, Propranolol is a common (blood pressure) drug (with significant side effects especially for pregnant women), I can’t help wonder if therapists or even DIYers are experimenting on their own. Good luck to you and keep us posted. Best, John

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