Hyperthymesia  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Hyperthymesia is the condition of possessing an extremely detailed autobiographical memory. Hyperthymesiacs remember an abnormally vast number of their life experiences.

Elizabeth Parker, Larry Cahill, and James McGaugh (2006) identified two defining characteristics of hyperthymesia: Spending an excessive amount of time thinking about one's past, and displaying an extraordinary ability to recall specific events from one's past.

The word hyperthymesia derives from Ancient Greek: hyper- ("excessive") and thymesis ("remembering"). Hyperthymesia is also known as hyperthymestic syndrome and highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM).

Appearance in fiction

  • In the CBS television series Unforgettable, the main character Carrie Wells, played by Poppy Montgomery, possesses superior memory capabilities that she uses to help solve crimes under investigation by the police. Her abilities are attributed to her having hyperthymesia.
  • On the program Criminal Minds, which is also a CBS series, the character Spencer Reid states on many occasions that he possess an Eidetic Memory, which is often linked to hyperthymesia.
  • On the Disney Channel series A.N.T. Farm the character Olive is able to remember every day of her life and everything she has ever heard seen or read, which is relatable to hyperthymesia.
  • Significant parts of the plot of Small Gods by Terry Pratchett depend on the hyperthymestic, eidetic memory of the monk Brutha. He remembers every moment of his life in perfect detail, down to the precise location and timing of individual footsteps. He cannot read, but he can nevertheless make perfect reproductions of documents from memory because he remembers the shapes of the letters. When he witnesses a disreputable action and is ordered to forget it, he does not understand the order as he has no concept of "forgetting". When asked what is the first thing that he can remember, he replies "There was a bright light, and then someone hit me".
  • Mike Ross (played by Patrick J. Adams) in the television series Suits has a flawless memory and remembers everything he has read or seen with perfect detail, something he uses to bolster his career. He has a hyperthymistic, eidetic memory.
  • Disciple Manning, the main character in R. Scott Bakker's novel Disciple Of The Dog, also suffers from hyperthymestic syndrome which he characterizes as "simply irritable bowel syndrome of the head: where my dad can't dump his dumps properly, me, I can't dump my memories properly".
  • In the Mass Effect science-fiction video games, an assassin named Thane Krios appears. He, along with every other member of the alien race called drell, has near perfect recollection of everything that has ever happened in their life. This characteristic was developed in response to a hostile desert homeworld where the location of important resources like water or oases were scattered over enormous distances, and so, not knowing the specific location could mean death.
  • Margaret Peterson Haddix's young adult novel Escape From Memory features a land where people are trained from childhood to be hyperthymesic.
  • In the movie Limitless, the lead character, Edward Morra, takes a drug which causes him to call back every memory he has ever had, which is similar to hyperthymesia.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hyperthymesia" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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