Tuesday 1 April 2008

Hyperthymesty (1)

Those of you who have read ITLAD and others who have attended my lectures will know that crucial to CTF is the suggestion the human brain records every sensation, event, image etc that it perceives. I suggest that the experiments of Wilder Penfield support such a supposition. However these re-experiences were stimulated under extreme conditions within an operating theatre. In order for the theory to work there has to be evidence of events taking place under 'normal' circumstances. In the book (and in the lectures) I discuss the case of Solomon Shereshevski (this name has been transliterated into many different spellings), a patient of the great Soviet psychiatrist Alexandr Romanovich Luria. This man seemed to remember every event of his life in absolute detail. Indeed as a very important aside he was also a temporal lobe epileptic. However this was a very unusual case. However recently there has been a spate of cases of a new psychological state called Hyperthymestic Syndrome.

The word Hyperthymesty is based on the Greek word thymesis for “remembering” and hyper, meaning “more than normal” - and this is exactly what people with this syndrome can do - with stunning results.

In February of 2006, the journal Neurocase reported on "A.J.," a 40-year-old California woman known only by her initials who could instantly recall details of her past with astonishing specificity. Dr. James McGaugh and his colleagues at the University of California-Irvine had been studying her for more than five years, and her case was the first of its kind to be recorded and chronicled in scientific research. Since then another two cases have been found and there is a clear suspicion that many more will be uncovered.

There is not a great deal of background information with regard to "A.J. (or indeed the other case that I have a name for - Brad Williams, a radio news reporter for Midwest Family Broadcasting in La Crosse, Wisconson). It would be interesting to find out if these individuals are temporal lobe epileptics, migrainers or autistic. If so then yet another element of ITLAD is evidenced from empirical research.

You may be interested to know that Brad's elder brother, Eric, a screenwriter in Glendale, Calif., is filming a documentary, "Unforgettable," about his younger brother's ability to recall nearly every day of his life.To view a trailer and scenes from the documentary, go to http://www.unforgettabledoc.com/. This looks like a very interesting movie with profoundly itladian aspects.

You will recall that Philip K Dick was preoccupied with memory - this interest culminating in his story (and subsequent movie) 'Total Recall'. As we know PKD is the most itladian of all writers (possibly because of his possible temporal lobe epilepsy).

As many people have said to me recently - the evidence for CTF can be found everywhere but only now ... if the book had been published ten years ago such supporting material would be unavailable. ITLAD had to be published when it was because the time is right. I wonder how much more there is to come.

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