Can you imagine what it would be like to remember everything from your life in full detail?
For 42-year-old Jill Price, a woman who used to go by the alias "A.J.," this scenario is her reality. Ever since age 14, Price says she can remember every day of her life–good or bad–and can even remember the dates of certain events, such as the death of Ronald Reagan.
Scientists at the University of California Irvine are currently in the process of studying Price's brain to find any clues as to exactly how our brains retrieve memories. Any conclusive findings may help in the ongoing struggle to find a cure to Alzheimer's. So far, they've discovered that some parts of her brain–the areas that are generally associated with obsessive compulsive disorder–are three times larger than those in other women of the same age. The reason Price remembers so much, say the UC-Irvine researchers, may be because she is "hoarding" memories, much in the way that people with OCD "hoard" objects.
Although most of us would jump at the opportunity to be able to remember things more easily, Price says her gift is more difficult than people perceive it to be. For instance, her husband Jim died just two years after they wed, and while time heals most people's wounds, Jill Price simply cannot forget the pain of losing her loved one. Nevertheless, Price is determined to maintain a positive outlook on life and is now writing an auto-biography about her condition. She recently interviewed with ABC News' Diane Sawyer in hopes that she could encourage other people with extensive memories like hers to come forward and participate in memory research. Dr. Cahill, one of the leaders of the UC-Irvine research team, says he is extremely hopeful about the potential of memory research conducted on people like Jill Price: "We're extremely excited. This has the chance to be very big. There has never been anything like this before."