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Exceptional Humans // episode 2: memory

The rare trait that may hold the secret to having a better memory

Michael Tabb
Member exclusive by Michael Tabb in Rome, Italy

This story is part of an ongoing series on Exceptional Humans and the scientists studying them to help us all benefit from their superhuman abilities.

Veronica Carletti, a doctor in San Leo, a small Italian town east of Florence, remembers virtually every day of her adult life, whether it’s Nov. 25, 1992, when she won a race at school, or July 31, 2015, the day she discovered other people had memories like hers.

Carletti is one of several dozen people around the world identified with highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM). American researcher Dr. James McGaugh discovered the trait nearly 20 years ago while working at the University of California, Irvine, but the research has since moved to the Santa Lucia Foundation in Rome, led by a team that includes one of McGaugh’s former students, Dr. Patrizia Campolongo. She and her collaborators are beginning to crack the mystery of how this sort of “hyper-memory” is possible.