Brain Parts Differ in Gifted Memory: Area Linked to OCD Enlarged in People with Total Recall

Article excerpt

Like the fictional detective Carrie Wells on the TV show Unforgettable, some real-life people can remember every day of their lives in detail. Those super--rememberers have more bulk in certain parts of their brains, possibly explaining the remarkable ability to recall minutiae from decades ago, researchers said November 13.

One brain region involved in such incredible recall has been implicated in obsessive-compulsive disorder, hinting that OCD and superior memory might have a common architecture in the brain.

Scientists have long studied people with memory deficits, but there haven't been many studies on people with exceptional memories. "Looking at memory from a superior perspective gives us a new tool. It may just broaden our knowledge and ability to know what's going on," said study coauthor Aurora LePort of the University of California, Irvine.

In 2006, UC Irvine neuroscientist Larry Cahill and collaborators published a report on a woman who could remember detailed accounts of her life. Cahill and colleagues then began hearing from many people who claimed to have extraordinary memories. After sifting through and eliminating the impostors, the team was left with 11 people who scored off the charts for autobiographical memory. These people could effortlessly remember, for instance, what they were doing on November 2, 1989, and could also tell you that it was a Thursday. "They're not going home and saying 'OK, let me write down what I did today and memorize it,'" LePort said.

Using brain scans, researchers found that people with supermemories had larger brain regions associated with memory, including the left temporoparietal junction and the left posterior insula. …