In the year 2000 a woman named Jill Price approached Dr. James McGaugh (an expert in the field of memory at The University of California, Irvine) claiming to have a very unique memory. Her purpose for doing so was to find 'answers for struggles she was having to cope with' in regards to her memory.
McGaugh was absolutely fascinated by Price’s memory and was perfectly happy to gather together a team of researchers to study her case. After six years Jill Price became the first person in the world to be identified with HSAM, in the year 2006. Dr. James McGaugh wrote an article about Price’s story in that same year, and in 2008 a book was published by Jill Price and Bart Davis called “The Woman who Can't Forget”.
Largely thanks to Jill Price’s initiative to come forward and Dr. McGaugh’s willingness to study her memory, nearly 60 more people around the world (including myself) have now been identified with HSAM. There has also been a fair number of us featured in media stories around the world. These mainly feature our endless memory recall (seemingly as autobiographical memories only make up part of a human’s overall memory ability), and our ability to state what day of the week we remember certain dates falling on.
The purpose of labs studying people with HSAM isn't merely to display how well we can recall these kinds of things. There is indeed a medical purpose for researching HSAM. In fact the opposite of HSAM which is SDAM (Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory) is being researched in the exact same way.
A person's memories are very important as they make up every part of who they are. Without our memories we would have no knowledge or emotions from past experiences. We would also have no communication skills or strategies for learning new skills.
Here it must be mentioned that there are many different kinds of memories that we all possess (and that includes autobiographical memory). Our memory recall ability isn't spread evenly across all areas either. Thus it is impossible to gauge someone's full memory ability merely by strengths and weaknesses in any particular area.
This also means that there are many different kinds of memory loss, and because of that it is impossible for someone to have no memory recall at all. The human mind is extremely multilayered. Certain parts of the brain (the hippocampus in particular) are responsible for storing and organising our memories. So just about all kinds of memory loss relate to hippocampal damage or degeneration. Yet there are various ways of which the hippocampus can be damaged, in the exact same way that our arm doesn’t always have to be fractured to be injured.
Due to the fact that there are many variations involved when it comes to memory loss, scientists study many different people with certain medical conditions. Amongst them all are people with HSAM and SDAM. At this present time scientists know barely a third of the factors of memory. The purpose of memory research studies are to enable the medical community to find answers (through tests and MRI scans) as to the exact way in which human memory works. Once we’ve found answers more effective cures for memory loss can be found, and those conditions will no longer be feared nearly as much among us.
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