News - September 2012

British university research team discovers first person in UK with a rare and puzzling memory power

24 September 2012

Professor Giuliana Mazzoni from the Department of Psychology at the University of Hull has been researching a remarkable kind of memory that scientists did not believe that humans could possess.

Professor Mazzoni

“Superior Autobiographical Memory” is newly discovered phenomenon.  People with this ability appear able to remember most days of their past in great detail.  When given a date they are usually able to recall precisely what they did that day, who they were with and even details of conversations, programmes they saw on television or what they ate for their lunch.  Some of these individuals claim to be able to remember every day of their life since childhood.

The phenomenon was first described by a memory research group in California a few years ago.  A handful of Americans have been identified with this very rare skill but no cases had been reported in the UK until now.

A 20 year old Cardiff born university student called Aurélien is the first person in Britain to come forward claiming to possess this ability. He features in a Channel 4 documentary to be screened on Tuesday 25th September at 9pm [watch documentary].

Aurelien claims to be unaware of how he is able to remember the days of his life with such precision. He said: “It’s like someone saying to you what’s your name.  You just know that it’s your name, it’s just something that comes straight to you.”

He has lived with this ability all his life but only recently realised how rare it was.  He admitted: “I’ve never met anyone who can do what I do”. 

Scientists have not been able to explain this mysterious ability.  Professor Mazzoni is trying to learn more about what enables it and whether it is something that we might all be capable of. 

She said:  “It is these exceptional cases that give the first clue to something that might change the way we think about how personal memory works, so it is really an exciting moment”. 

Professor Mazzoni believes that there may be other people in the country who also have this ability.  She would like anyone who might be able to help her with her research to contact her at the University of Hull.

 

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