Woman With Perfect Memory Baffles Scientists: Patient Remembers Every Day and Almost Every Detail of Her Life, ABC, News, March 20, 2006 -- James McGaugh, is one of the world's leading experts on how the human memory system works. But these days, he admits he's stumped. McGaugh's journey through an intellectual purgatory began six years ago when a woman now known only as AJ wrote him a letter detailing her astonishing ability to remember with remarkable clarity even trivial events that happened decades ago. Give her any date, she said, and she could recall the day of the week, usually what the weather was like on that day, personal details of her life at that time, and major news events that occurred on that date. Like any good scientist, McGaugh was initially skeptical. But not anymore. "This is real," he says. ... McGaugh teamed with two fellow researchers at the University of California at Irvine. Elizabeth Parker, a clinical professor of psychiatry and neurology (and lead author of a report on the research in the current issue of the journal Neurocase), and Larry Cahill, an associate professor of neurobiology and behavior, have joined McGaugh in putting AJ through an exhaustive series of interviews and psychological tests. But they aren't a lot closer today to understanding her amazing ability than they were when they started. ... "the woman who can't forget" remembers trivial details as clearly as major events. ... Some may have had a personal meaning for her, but some did not. ... Some people are able to recall past events by categorizing them. Certain events, or facts, are associated with others, and filed away together so that they may be easier to access. .... AJ does have "some sort of compulsive tendencies. She wants order in her life," McGaugh says. "As a child, she would get upset if her mother changed anything in her room because she had a place for everything and wanted everything in its place. "So she does categorize events by the date, but that doesn't explain why she remembers it." Also, her degree of recall is so much greater than any other person's in the scientific literature that it seems unlikely to be the complete answer, McGaugh adds. She is also quite different from savants who have surfaced from time to time with extraordinary abilities in music, art or memory. ... By contrast, AJ is a " fully functioning person," McGaugh says. The researchers are preparing to take their work in a new direction in hopes of understanding what is going on here. It's possible AJ's brain is wired differently, and that may show up through magnetic resonance imaging. Testing is expected to begin within six months. "We will be looking at her brain, using brain scanning techniques, to see if there's anything that is dramatically different that we can point to," McGaugh says. Those of us with normal, very fallible memories function somewhat like a computer in that different areas of our brains are interconnected and thus better-suited for general memories. We know where we live and how to get to work, but we may not know what the weather was like on this date four years ago. It's possible that AJ's brain has some "disconnections" that help her recall past events from her memory bank without interference from the parts of her brain that act as general processors. But the problem is that even if they find some interesting wiring through brain scans, the researchers will be limited in their conclusions by the fact that AJ seems to be unique. So unique, in fact, that the Irvine team has given her condition a new name. They call it hyperthymestic syndrome, based on the Greek word thymesis for "remembering" and hyper, meaning "more than normal." Some day, the researchers say, they hope to know what's different about AJ's brain, but they are still a ways off. ... [Thanks to Bill Dembski for pointing this article out.]
Researchers Identify New Form Of Superior Memory Syndrome, ScienceDaily, March 14, 2006 Researchers at UC Irvine have identified the first known case of a new memory syndrome - a woman with the ability to perfectly and instantly recall details of her past. ... Given a date, AJ can recall with astonishing accuracy what she was doing on that date and what day of the week it fell on. .. she "can take a date, between 1974 and today, and tell you what day it falls on, what I was doing that day and if anything of importance occurred on that day." She had been called "the human calendar" for years by her friends and acquaintances. According to McGaugh, her case is different from others who have been studied in the past with superior memory. . "What makes this young woman so remarkable is that she uses no mnemonic devices to help her remember things," said McGaugh ... "Her recall is instant and deeply personal, related to her own life or to other events that were of interest to her." ... While she has nearly perfect recall of what she was doing on any given date and instantly can identify the date and day of the week when an important historical event in her lifetime occurred, she has difficulty with rote memorization and did not always do well in school. She scored perfectly on a formal neuropsychological test to measure her autobiographical memory, but during the testing had difficulty organizing and categorizing information. She refers to her ongoing remembering of her life’s experiences as "a movie in her mind that never stops". ...
UCI studies woman who can't forget: UCI researchers assess woman with 'nonstop, automatic' memory, MSNBC, Gary Robbins, Orange County Register, March 13, 2006 The "human calendar." That's what some people call the woman who contacted UC Irvine neurobiologist Jim McGaugh six years ago and said, "I have a problem. I remember too much." McGaugh answered dozens of questions about AJ last week. Here are excerpts from our interview. Q: How would you describe AJ's autobiographical memory? A: Her recollections are quick and seem to be automatic. When asked how she knows an answer, she says, sometimes with frustration or impatience, that she "just knows." She says she can see the event in her mind and relive it, like she's watching a movie. When asked about a particular day, she immediately gives the day of the week it fell on and describes some activity she engaged in, such as taking an exam, having lunch with a particular friend. She gives an inordinate number of details and is deliberate and calm as she recalls the sequence of events. Q: AJ says she remembers too much. Is this a problem? A: Her memories seem just to come pouring out, and she can't turn off the flow. She's sometimes forced to remember things that she doesn't want to think about. ... Q: How have you confirmed the accuracy of her answers? A: The significant public events are a matter of record; we fact-checked. We are able to check her personal experiences against a diary she kept from the age of 10 to 34. ... AJ's ability is different; she has extraordinarily strong memory of daily personal experiences as well as public events. The odd thing is she hated studying history. And she's not especially good at rote memorization. Q: Do you find that odd? A: Yes. That is one reason we've spent dozens of hours over many years studying her. ... Q: Is there anything in particular she remembered that just amazed you? A:Yes. She readily and accurately recalled the specific dates, and days of the week, of every day she spent with us for the many interviews (over almost 6 years), as well as the weather on each day and many details occurring at the times of the interviews. ... [Further to my post about a week ago about how Darwinists compare the highest abilities of apes and the lowest abilities in humans to claim that man is just a "naked ape" or "third chimpanzee," when if the highest abilities of apes and the highest abilities in humans are compared, then the difference between man and his closest living relatives is analogous to a "kingdom-level `speciation'":
"In comparing humans to older primates we indeed have many similar biological characteristics. We have manipulative hands and highly mobile (brachiating) shoulders and large brains, but we also have a unique bipedal locomotion and subtle differences in the air passages and tongue, changes that provide for the complex shaping of sounds. The combination of the possibilities for speech along with a greatly enlarged brain provide for the development of abstract symbols (as evidenced in the cave art) and the highly complex social exchange we call language. Ecologically, humans are extremely diverse. No species on earth is so widespread and diversified in terms of habitat, resource utilization, and societal plasticity. We are the adaptive animal! If an extraterrestrial biologist were asked to explain the difference between ourselves and our ancient ancestor the chimpanzee, who still is confined to the African jungle, he would probably suggest that something quite extraordinary must have happened. In David Wilcox's words: `Our Martian friend would probably conclude that the human species has indeed recently penetrated a radically new adaptive plane, one as great as the invention of photosynthesis or multicellular life. Perhaps he would conclude that a kingdom level "speciation" event has occurred, the first since the Cambrian.' [Wilcox D.L., "Created in Eternity, Unfolded in Time," Unpublished manuscript, 1990, Chap.7, p.4]" (Templeton J.M. & Herrmann R.L., "Is God the Only Reality?: Science Points to a Deeper Meaning of the Universe," Continuum: New York, 1994, pp.139-140)
The problem of this for Darwinism is that, as Darwin himself admitted, "Natural selection tends only to make each being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same area" (my emphasis). Yet, as Wallace pointed out, man's mind was far in advance of any other species, i.e. "An instrument ... developed in advance of the needs of its possessor" (see also Eiseley quote below):
"Second Corollary-Too Much Perfection. Darwin formulated this himself in the first edition of The Origin of Species: `Natural selection tends only to make each being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same area.' [Darwin C., "The Origin of Species," 1859, First edition, Harvard University Press, Reprinted, 1966, p.201] Eiseley reports that in 1869, after only ten years, it was brushed aside by no less a person than Alfred Russel Wallace, co-inventor with Darwin of the doctrine of natural selection. Perceiving that the gap between the brain of the ape and that of the lowest savage was too big, Wallace announced a heresy: 'An instrument has been developed in advance of the needs of its possessor.' [Wallace A.R., "Geological Climates and the Origin of Species," Quarterly Review, Vol. 126, 1869, pp.359-94, p.393] He challenged the whole Darwinian position by insisting that artistic, mathematical, and musical abilities could not be explained on the basis of natural selection and the struggle for existence. Something else, he contended, some unknown spiritual element, must have been at work in the elaboration of the human brain." (Macbeth N., "Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason," Gambit: Boston MA, 1971, pp.102-103).)
I have added an excerpt of the above first article (and references to the other two) to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 220.127.116.11 "Man ... Uniqueness ... Intelligence ... Mental feats.]
"Third, and most important perhaps in its final effect upon the thinking of Wallace, was Darwin's heavy emphasis upon utility, upon limited perfection. `Natural selection,' he had contended in the Origin, `tends only to make each organic being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same country with which it had to struggle for existence. Natural selection will not produce absolute perfection.' [Darwin C.R., "Origin of Species,"1872, Sixth edition, Modern Library: New York, pp.172-73] It was just this reservation when applied to the problem of the rise of the human brain which led Wallace to break with the views of his distinguished colleague. In 1869, much to the dismay of Darwin, he came to the conclusion that natural selection and its purely utilitarian approach to life would not account for many aspects and capacities of the human brain. [Wallace A.R., "Geological Climates and the Origin of Species," Quarterly Review, 1869, Vol. 126, pp.359-94] Furthermore, he began to express concern over the difficulty of accounting for the absence of numerous human remains in the older geological deposits, if humanity had been indeed as numerous as the Darwinian theory demanded. [Wallace A.R., "Darwinism," London, 1896, p.458] Wallace contended in the Quarterly Review article, which soon drew the attention of Darwin and Huxley, that the brain of the lowest savages, or even of the known prehistoric races, was little inferior to that of Europeans. `Natural selection,' he argued, `could only have endowed the savage with a brain a little superior to that of an ape, whereas he actually possesses one but very little inferior to that of the average member of our learned societies. ... Wallace pointed out `that, among the lowest savages with the least copious vocabularies, the capacity of uttering a variety of distinct articulate sounds, and of applying to them an almost infinite amount of modulation and inflection, is not in any way inferior to that of the higher races. An instrument has been developed in advance of the needs of its possessor.' In this last sentence we come upon the clue to all of Wallace's later thinking upon man. He had become firmly convinced that man's latent intellectual powers, even in a savage state, were far in excess of what he might have achieved through natural selection alone. 'We have to ask,' he said later, `what relation the successive stages of improvement of the mathematical faculty had to the life or death of its possessors, to the struggle of tribe with tribe, or nation with nation; or to the ultimate survival of one race and the extinction of another.' [Wallace A.R., "Difficulties of Development as Applied to Man," Popular Science Monthly, 1876, Vol. 10, p.65] Musical gifts, high ethical behavior, he had come to doubt as being ever the product of utility in the war of nature. They lay ready for exploitation as much among savages as among the civilized. They were latent powers." (Eiseley L.C., "Darwin's Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered It," , Anchor Books: Garden City NY, Reprinted, 1961, pp.310-312)