The University of CA at Irvine has discovered a woman with apparently perfect memory, and has slated a series of tests to try to discover how she does it.
She's certainly not a savant, extraordinarily proficient in one area but mostly deficient in others. The's a "fully funtioning person," they say.
James McGaugh is one of the world's leading experts on how the human memory system works. But these days, he admits he's stumped.
McGaugh's journey through an intellectual purgatory began six years ago when a woman now known only as AJ wrote him a letter detailing her astonishing ability to remember with remarkable clarity even trivial events that happened decades ago.
Give her any date, she said, and she could recall the day of the week, usually what the weather was like on that day, personal details of her life at that time, and major news events that occurred on that date.
Like any good scientist, McGaugh was initially skeptical. But not anymore.
"This is real," he says.
...[H]e asked her out of the blue if she knew who Bing Crosby was.
"I wasn't sure she would know, because she's 40 and wasn't of the Bing Crosby era," he says.
But she did.
"Do you know where he died?" McGaugh asked.
"Oh yes, he died on a golf course in Spain," she answered, and provided the day of the week and the date when the crooner died.
When the researchers asked her to list the dates when they had interviewed her, she "just reeled them off, bang, bang, bang."
She also told McGaugh that on the day after a particular interview, which took place several years ago, he flew to Germany.
"I said what? I went to Germany? I couldn't even remember what year I had gone to Germany," he says.
Shucks, people—this is nothing new. I've been married to a woman with perfect memory for nearly 30 years. Scout's honor.
And yes, I have our anniversary date tattooed on my forearm. (Ok, just kidding about that last thing. But I have been known to set my personal event alarm for 17 Apr, just in case. And I have a secret stash of terrifically mushy anniversary cards for emergencies...)
(Hat tip to Ralph Bristol.)