Meet the man with almost perfect memory

His enhanced memory is both a blessing and a curse

Sabrina Barr
Tuesday 12 December 2017 10:59

Meet Joey DeGrandis, the man with a memory that can be deemed as almost perfect.

Have you ever wished you could remember details from a certain day from your past, but find yourself straining to build a mental picture?

For DeGrandis, his whole life has been governed by a constant influx of memories and expansive knowledge.

DeGrandis first discovered he was different as a child when his parents became aware of his enhanced memory, Time Health reports.

However, DeGrandis never considered his mental ability as that significant, merely a party trick that he could use to impress his friends.

Everything changed in 2010 when DeGrandis, then aged 26, watched a segment on 60 Minutes about people with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM).

DeGrandis noticed many similarities between himself and the people featured on the show and so he decided to investigate further by contacting a doctor studying the condition.

James McGaugh was a research professor in neurobiology and behaviour at the University of California, Irvine.

McGaugh diagnosed the first case of HSAM when a woman called Jill Price contacted him in regard to a “memory problem.”

McGaugh appeared on 60 Minutes to discuss his findings.

After his appearance, McGaugh received more than 600 emails and phone calls from people who thought they may also have HSAM.

One of those people was DeGrandis.

Despite the sheer volume of people who contacted McGaugh, he and his team only identified about 60 of them as having the condition.

While a superior memory can have its benefits it can also have its downfalls.

Having HSAM doesn’t just involve having an uncanny ability to remember minute details.

It also means that when something bad happens in your life, it’s harder to let go of those lingering negative feelings.

“I consider myself lucky in that I’ve had a pretty good life, so I have a lot of happy, warm and fuzzy memories I can think back on,” says DeGrandis.

“But I do tend to dwell on things longer than the average person, and when something painful does happen, like a break-up or the loss of a family member, I don’t forget those feelings.”

A person with HSAM isn’t immune to forgetting someone’s name or misplacing their keys, as it isn’t the same as having a photographic memory.

“Their memories are much more detailed than ours, and last for a longer period of time, but they’re still not video recordings,” explains McGaugh.

“Memory is a distracting process, and what we pull from our brains isn’t always entirely accurate.”

Since the first diagnosis of HSAM 20 years ago, researchers still have a long way to go to fully comprehending the condition.

A greater understanding of it could even lead to breakthroughs in the fight against memory-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

While it may have its pitfalls, DeGrandis is ultimately grateful for his gift.

“It can be frustrating, but it’s also really wonderful to have easy access to happy memories,” he says. “I really try not to take that for granted."

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