Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Food & Memory

This is only tangentially about food (food is mentioned in the article, but it's not its focus), but it's so totally fascinating to me that I can't keep myself from blogging about it.

Neuroscientists are exploring a small group of (otherwise) regular people who have supercharged memories (via Ken Jennings). They're able to recall events - both personal and public - by date, from throughout their lives. Ask them when a particular thing happened, and they can give you the date. Ask them what happened on a specific date, and they'll tell you what was in the news that day, or what they did during the afternoon, or what they had for lunch (that's the food connection).

So far, there are only two confirmed cases of hyperthymesia (that's what it's called) - a woman who's somewhat tortured by the condition (and who has a book coming out next month) and a mild-mannered man. There are fifty or so more subjects under study as potential cases.

The hypothesis is that these people's brains simply work in a different way from you and me, though that specific difference has yet to be pinpointed. However, they generally share some characteristics: They're left-handed, or show left-handed tendencies and they collect (horde?)things like TV Guides.

I have a good memory, especially for dates that are relevant to me, and I always chalked that up to the obsessive diary-keeping of my high school years. After reading this, it seems clear to me that my memory is nowhere near as fantastic as I fancy it. And also, that's fine. It's bad enough that I remember some of my more embarassing moments from eighth and ninth grade. I don't think I need them all.

But the food. Wouldn't it be cool to remember every single meal? Think of the perspective you'd have as a diner.

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