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Interviewer 15th of August 1996.
Aurelien Okay. The very first thing I see is this furry
banana which I bought on holiday with my family.
NARRATOR 20 year old aurelien is remembering a specific
day, when he was just four years old. he claims to have a power that scientists didn't believe
humans could possess.
Aurelien I've never met anyone who's been able
to do what I do.
NARRATOR put simply, aurelien is the first British
man to say that he doesn't forget his past.
Aurelien 'Cause I remember the 25th being the day
where it snowed in the morning, and I think it was the day that George Best died.
Dominic O'Brien 7th of July 2008.
Aurelien It's a Monday.
Aurelien It just seems like there's no gaps at all.
I can just see it all.
NARRATOR around the world, other people have come forward.
some claim to remember every day of their life.
Jill Price Bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing.
Jill Price If you could stick a camera in my head then
I think everybody would freak out.
NARRATOR this summer, we met the people who say they
have this unbelievable ability. and the scientists putting them to the test.
Giuliana Mazzoni I always claimed that actually this was not
possible, because normal memory does not work like that.
NARRATOR could the amazing power they claim to have
possibly turn out to be real?
Dominic O'Brien I can tell within, you know, 30 seconds to
a minute if someone's genuine or not.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) November 13th 1980.
Jill Price (Archive) Was a Monday.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) How do you know it's a Monday?
Jill Price (Archive) 'Cause I just do.
Aurelien Sorry, I didn't wanna answer that question.
Can you stop filming? Sorry.
Interviewer Sure.
NARRATOR aurelien is a university student. we first
filmed with him on saturday the 19th may. sceptical about his unbelievable talent, and
curious to see how he could prove it.
Interviewer How could you demonstrate for me what it is
that your memory does that maybe mine doesn't?
Aurelien I suppose if someone said what happened, oh,
tell me something that happened in, like, June 2008. And I could instantly think of
things, whereas most people would not be even able to remember, you know, what they were
doing it that year.
Interviewer What about the 17th of June 2008?
Aurelien Yeah, I can tell you. That was a Tuesday,
and it was the first day after I finished my GCSE exams, and my room was an absolute
tip, so I had to just clear it all out, and I spent the whole day doing that. I could
tell you it was quite a nice day. It got sunnier and we went for a curry in the evening.
Aurelien And I remember watching Loose Women with my
mum, and Joan Rivers got thrown off for swearing on live TV. Yeah.
NARRATOR i checked the date of joan rivers' daytime
television outburst. he was right, it did occur on tuesday the 17th of june 2008.
NARRATOR aurelien said he couldn't tell me how he
did this. but he let me come back and test him on more random dates.
Interviewer 19th of September 2008?
Aurelien It was a Friday. I remember my dad was like
selling his car.
Aurelien It was the last that we saw his car before
it got taken.
Interviewer 30th of May 2007?
Aurelien It was a Wednesday. The weather was quite
good that day. Which was quite unusual because it rained pretty much for the whole of that
May.
Interviewer When you tell me all this stuff.
Aurelien Yeah.
Interviewer How am I supposed to know it's right? How
am I supposed to know that you remember this stuff? You claim it's true, but how do I
know?
Aurelien I suppose the thing is you don't, so. I
could be making it up right now.
Interviewer Are you making it up?
Aurelien No. I don't see why I would bother to be
honest with you.
Aurelien What do you think about it?
Interviewer I think it's a little unusual.
Aurelien Mmm.
Interviewer And I'm rather curious about how you're
doing it.
NARRATOR aurelien told me he remembered days way back
into his childhood. but he had absolutely no idea how they stuck in his head.
NARRATOR i wanted his parents to confirm the truth
of his memories, and see what they thought of their son's strange skill.
Aurelien's Mother We were talking sometimes at the table when
we were having a meal, and then I used to say, for instance, oh 'do you remember when
we went to Bangkok three years ago', or whatever. He used to say 'no, it was not
three years ago, it was four years ago, and it was actually on the blah blah blah',
you know, and he gave me the day, the month, and so forth. I used to say 'really?',
and then I used to run to look in my diary to see, you know, just to check, and I think
that's why I started to think gosh, you know, you memory is not bad.
Aurelien's Mother Do you remember what we did on the 30th of
Aurelien I know it was a Monday.
Aurelien's Mother Yeah.
Aurelien Bank holiday.
Aurelien's Mother How do you know that?
Aurelien I think it could be, I know that we went to the Cadbury factory
around that time.
Aurelien's Mother Yeah. Well, yeah, that's correct.
Aurelien So, I don't know for certain that it was
that day.
Aurelien's Mother Yeah it is that day.
Aurelien But I know that it was around that time.
Aurelien's Mother Yes, correct. That's exactly what we did,
we went to Cadbury World, we stopped in Ross-on-Wye on the day, and we had a great day eating
chocolate.
Aurelien's Father And over the years we've learnt to sort
of accept that if Aurelien does say that there's a date that's correct, after a couple of
years of saying 'oh no you got that wrong', and realising that he wasn't wrong, we tend
to accept it now without challenging it.
Interviewer What's your explanation for why Aurelien
can do that?
Aurelien's Mother 'Cause he's just like me, he's bright.
I don't know. Because, as I said to you before, it's not something I, you know,
I knew he had a good memory, but that was the extent of it really. I never knew he was,
you know, something really special and different from most people.
NARRATOR it seemed aurelien's memories were surprisingly
accurate. but it was hard to know how much of his life he'd got stored in his head.
Interviewer So, I'll pick a month at random.
Aurelien Okay.
Interviewer July 2009.
NARRATOR the month i chose was three years ago, 1,080
days have passed, since these events took place.
Aurelien I can remember 20 of the days. Like that.
I can remember all of those days. I suppose there are three things that pop out instantly
when I think of July. I went to France one weekend Tool in France, Duke of Edinburgh,
and driving lesson in fact. I can put that there. And I think around that time I started
reading Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
Aurelien Anyway, it's like I could get a diary for
2009 and write it if I wanted to. Retrospectively.
NARRATOR aurelien said that his brain stored all this
information automatically. but i wondered if he was hiding some secret technique. we
went to meet a man who has trained his memory. eight times world memory champion, dominic
o'brien.
Dominic O'Brien I would be suspicious if someone said that
they automatically know what they were doing on a specific day in their life. The day of
the week for any date, without involving some sort of technique.
Dominic O'Brien I can tell within, you know, 30 seconds to
a minute if someone's genuine or not, and most of the time they're not able to do
what they claim.
Dominic O'Brien Hello, you must be Aurelien.
Aurelien Yes, Dominic.
Dominic O'Brien Welcome.
Aurelien Nice to meet you.
Dominic O'Brien How are you?
Aurelien Good. You?
Dominic O'Brien Come inside we'll share some memories.
Aurelien Okay.
Dominic O'Brien Come in.
Aurelien Thank you.
Dominic O'Brien Go.
Aurelien Okay. Go.
NARRATOR aurelien says he has no technique to help
his extraordinary memory. dominic o'brien does, and he can memorise information at a
world record breaking speed.
Aurelien Okay.
Dominic O'Brien Two of hearts, four of diamonds, the jack
of hearts, the jack of clubs, seven of clubs, two of clubs.
Aurelien Completely right.
Dominic O'Brien Alright.
Aurelien I'd be interested to know what you do obviously.
I honestly, don't know where I'd begin.
Dominic O'Brien I mean, the jack of diamonds could be Johnny
Depp.
Aurelien Right.
Dominic O'Brien J D, jack of diamonds. The queen of clubs,
wherever that is, there we are, the queen of clubs that could be Paris Hilton, 'cause
she likes to go clubbing, she's the queen of nightclubs. So, now when I see the cards
I automatically see people.
NARRATOR mental images are the key to dominic's remarkable
memory, and he has a similar method to calculate dates.
Aurelien The 1st of June 2004.
Dominic O'Brien Tuesday I think. Is that right?
Aurelien Yeah.
Dominic O'Brien The 3rd of October 2003. Can you do that?
Aurelien 3rd of October. I think that was a Friday.
Dominic O'Brien Yes, it was, yeah.
Aurelien I remember my sister had a friend over.
Dominic O'Brien How about the 15th of April 2007?
Aurelien Ooh, that was a Sunday, and I went canoeing,
I was in Zambia; me, my dad and my sister went canoeing. Just remember that day straightaway.
Dominic O'Brien 10th of August.
Aurelien Yeah.
Dominic O'Brien 2007
Aurelien Okay.
Dominic O'Brien What's your nearest point of reference?
Aurelien My nearest point of reference is the 8th,
which was a Wednesday. Actually the 7th. I remember that night I'd eaten way too much,
and I threw up. So, for instance, I've known instantly what the 8th of August was.
Dominic O'Brien So, you're using a reference point.
Aurelien Yeah.
Aurelien The 8th was a Wednesday. Yeah.
Dominic O'Brien Yeah. That's right.
Aurelien So then I think Friday must have been the
10th.
Dominic O'Brien You're not making a point of I must remember
this day because it's two days before my birthday and I'll remember for the future.
So you don't review this? That is fascinating. It is interesting. Don't think I've ever
met somebody quite like you. 'Cause that's extraordinary, because for me to do that,
I mean, I could do what you do, if I made a conscious effort to do it.
Aurelien Yeah.
Dominic O'Brien But I would have to review every day at the
end of the day, and then think about it the following day, next week, next month, etc.
Until I've got it.
Aurelien I think of it as, it's almost like there's
this imaginary pen writing in events in a sort of mental calendar.
Interviewer So, you're convinced are you?
Dominic O'Brien I'm 99% sure Aurelien is the genuine article.
Dominic O'Brien 99%.
Aurelien I don't think that people would meet me
and think like he's got something funny about his memory.
Friend Yeah, but we had no idea, like, at all. As
soon as you suddenly said 'oh, I've got this thing', I was like 'what? Really?'
NARRATOR it seemed aurelien had only just started to
let others see his hidden talent.
Aurelien I'd love to know what you think. I don't
know.
Friend I think it's weird that I can say a date
and you would know what day it was.
Aurelien Yeah.
Friend Rel do you remember when you lost your virginity?
Friend What day was that?
Aurelien There are some things which are.
Friend Well, do you? If you say you remember.
Friend No, I do. It was the 19th of January 2006.
Aurelien So, you lost it on a Thursday?
Friend What?
Aurelien Is it really cool or really weird?
Friend Strange.
Friend weird.
Friend Both
NARRATOR i wasn't the only person trying to make
sense of aurelien's extraordinary ability.
Henry Yeah, masses of memory, here it is. People
who can recall exactly what happened on every day of their lives.
NARRATOR his boyfriend, henry, had come across a story
of people with a suspiciously similar skill.
Henry So like do you struggle to remember what you
had for breakfast yesterday, let alone what you did last weekend? Yeah, so this is basically
what I read.
Aurelien And then you watched the documentary.
NARRATOR jill price was the first person in the world
to come forward with this ability. she's been living with it for almost four decades.
Jill Price (Archive) I actually believe I should be like in a mental
hospital, because this is, makes me crazy. Like, I still feel bad about stuff that happened
30 years ago.
Diane Sawyer (Archive) But we all do, I mean, we can all remember
one or two things.
Jill Price (Archive) It's not one or two things, everything.
Aurelien I mean, hers is very extreme. She can remember
every single day.
Henry As you get older, and you live more life,
I think you'll definitely be able to remember more.
Aurelien Possibly.
Henry Time will tell, like how far back you will
be able to go.
Aurelien Mmm.
Jill Price (Archive) I mean, short of a lobotomy I don't really
think that there's anything that can be done for me.
NARRATOR jill price seemed to be struggling with a
memory even more powerful than aurelien's. maybe she had some explanation for why he
remembered so much.
NARRATOR in the last year jill hadn't granted a single
interview. but she had agreed to meet me.
NARRATOR we arranged to meet in a hotel in los angeles.
on the morning of saturday the 24th of june.
NARRATOR could the troubled mind of this 46 year old
school administrator hold the key to understanding this mysterious skill?
Interviewer Is there a way you can show me what it is
you can do?
Jill Price No.
Jill Price If you could stick a camera in my head, then
I think everybody would freak out. Like, I can see my memories, you know? Starting in
February of 1980 until now, it's like every day. Every day.
Interviewer You can literally remember every day?
Jill Price Hmm mmm. It's made life extremely emotionally
difficult at times. Well, there's a lot of complex emotions that go along with not
being able to, you know, forget. Because everything in someone's life there's a line, but
everything is connected, because you wouldn't be here if this didn't happen. And I always
am thinking about 'God, if I had just not done this, then this wouldn't have happened'.
It's harder as years have gone by, 'cause there's so much stuff. You know, everyone
has baggage, I've got a freaking steamer truck that's just like, that I'm just
dragging along. I've suffered a few bouts of depression over the years. And no psychologist,
no doctors were able to give me any answers. I mean, I've asked therapists, believe me,
it's not like I didn't talk about this and wanna know like, you know, why? Nobody
had an answer for me, so I thought well, go to a scientist. The first thing that popped
up was Dr McGaugh.
NARRATOR dr james l. mcgaugh, distinguished professor
of neuro-biology, has spent his career trying to understand how strong memories are made.
NARRATOR he's been carefully testing jill's memory
for several years.
Jill Price I found him on June 5th 2000, which was a
Monday. And then on June 12th he called me and we set up a time to meet on June 24th.
NARRATOR it's more than a decade since jill's first
visit to the university.
NARRATOR but her recollection of events can easily
be checked.
Dr McGaugh Let me see, what year did we want the calendar
for?
Dr McGaugh's Assistant 2000
Dr McGaugh 2000?
NARRATOR for 37 years dr mcgaugh's assistant has
kept a faithful record of what he's done day by day.
Dr McGaugh's Assistant And you're looking for June.
Dr McGaugh Hmm mmm.
Dr McGaugh's Assistant I think maybe.
Dr McGaugh Yeah, the 24th. She was right about that.
June 24th.
Interviewer Do you know when you first met Jill?
Dr McGaugh's Assistant No. I don't. But it was sometime later,
because you met with her maybe another time on a Saturday, I think.
Dr McGaugh I think it was Saturday July 8th.
Dr McGaugh You know how I know that? 'Cause it's
written right here.
Dr McGaugh These are my memories. These are my memories,
they're all written down here, and then I recall 'yes, I remember it well'. Oh,
and my son got married.
Dr McGaugh's Assistant I'm the keeper of the book, not of the memories.
Dr McGaugh And then I went to Stockholm.
Dr McGaugh I didn't know that.
NARRATOR when they met, dr mcgaugh needed to verify
jill's memory. so he asked about things she may have seen in the news.
Dr McGaugh So.
Dr McGaugh I knew how old she was. So I had to find some
time, so I just randomly said.
Dr McGaugh Well, let's see.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) What were the dates of the two O. J. Simpson
verdicts?
Jill Price (Archive) October 3rd 1995 and February 4th 1997.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) We had a Concord plane crash.
Jill Price (Archive) July 25th.
Dr McGaugh And she was just remarkably accurate.
Jill Price The first question he asked me was when the
Iranian hostage situation started, and I told him, and then he told me I was wrong, and
I told him I was right, and that went back and forth. And then we found that of course
I was right.
Interviewer How certain were you, you were right?
Jill Price 100%.
Interviewer Why?
Jill Price 'Cause I just was.
Jill Price Same thing happened when Diane Sawyer was
interviewing me on 20:20. And she asked me when Princess Grace died.
Jill Price (Archive) September 14th 1982.
Jill Price I went into a whole long thing, it was the
first day of 12th grade, it was Tuesday September 14th.
Jill Price (Archive) And that was the first day I started 12th
grade.
Jill Price Well, I went into this whole long story, and
she looks at me, she goes 'no'.
Diane Sawyer (Archive) Wait, September 10th 1982.
Jill Price And I'm like 'yeah', and she said 'no'.
And I said 'yeah'.
Diane Sawyer (Archive) Says September 10th.
Jill Price (Archive) Well, that might not be right.
Jill Price I don't know, but in the room, you know,
where all the producers and everybody, they're all scrambling back there; Blackberries, Googling.
And then the door opens up and the producer sticks his head out, and he screams the book
is wrong.
Producer (Archive) The book is wrong.
Diane Sawyer (Archive) What?
Jill Price That has always irked my crap. Maybe you should
check your facts first before you do that, because you look like a dumb idiot. Sorry.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) I want you to draw for me your representation
of the years, the months and the days of the week.
NARRATOR dr mcgaugh was facing something no scientist
had ever seen before.
Dr McGaugh We know almost nothing about the causes of
forgetting.
Dr McGaugh That's a big black hole in scientific research.
We know an awful lot about the conditions which create memories. We know very little
about what happens when people forget.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) What was that for? Is there some significance
to the length of the line that you draw across?
Jill Price (Archive) It's just how I see it in my head. It's
just how I see it.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) Why did you draw those lines there?
Jill Price (Archive) Just to show that it didn't go all the way
there, and kind of came down here.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) What does that mean? I don't understand
what that means.
Dr McGaugh So here the first individual who is poor at
forgetting.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) October 13th 1980?
Jill Price (Archive) Was a Monday. So I would just think of like
that on a Monday.
Dr McGaugh (Archive) How do you know it's a Monday?
Jill Price (Archive) 'Cause I just do.
Dr McGaugh Which is really unusual. Really unusual. So,
that has to be motivating for a scientist. We said let's see what we can find out about
that.
Jill Price That's all I care about. As long as, you
know, somebody in the science world took me seriously, I was thrilled with that, you have
no idea.
NARRATOR today, dr mcgaugh is still trying to make
sense of jill's ability. but now his research programme has grown much larger than he could
ever have imagined. because, after jill appeared on worldwide television, incredibly ten other
people with this ability appeared.
NARRATOR i met 62 year old television producer bob
petrella, who is letting the scientists test him.
Scientist And the last date is March 5th.
Bob Petrella March 5th, was a Monday. I got some spaghetti,
and I got some rice, and I got some vegetables, but I didn't get any grated cheese.
Bob Petrella Most people don't understand it. They think
it's photographic, they think it's autistic savant, they think it's absolute. They think
you remember everything. Well, we don't. We don't remember every single thing, we
make mistakes, we forget where our keys are, where we parked our car like anybody else.
But, I think it's fairly complete on what I was doing on most days of my life.
Scientist Right. And, that's all I have.
Interviewer How do you do it?
Bob Petrella I don't know how I do it, it's just there.
And it's been there, you know, since I was young. I knew it was a little unusual for
years, but I didn't know why I remembered like I did. I wasn't even sure how.
NARRATOR they said they didn't know how they did
it. dr mcgaugh hadn't worked out how they did it. but there was another scientist who
thought that he could explain.
NARRATOR he met jill and wrote an article in wired
magazine. he said the truth was she was obsessed with her past.
Dr Gary Marcus I don't think that her memory's fundamentally
different from other people's, I think that in the same way that a child can be very interested
in baseball cards, she's interested in the facts of her own life. And she thinks about
them, she reflects on them.
Jill Price Crap. I don't give a shit that it's in
Wired magazine. That means nothing. Okay. It's crap.
Dr McGaugh We never claimed that she had a perfect memory.
Jill Price, who seems to remember everything; she does not remember everything. What she
remembers she doesn't forget. That's a difference.
NARRATOR many people have been trying to make sense
of jill price's memory. but the first person to offer an explanation found it wasn't
well received.
Jill Price I will just say that I was greatly offended
by his article.
Jill Price And a lot of people read that article, so
a lot of people are like, you know, this is who they think that's what this is, that
it's just some stupid, simplistic, OCD of the brain.
NARRATOR i had come across this article before i travelled
to america. i went to meet the author to learn how he thought jill remembered so much.
Dr Gary Marcus I think what drives Jill to have such a good
memory is not so much the memory circuits of her brain, but the circuits that drive
her to want to remember things. And it's not a conscious wanting, it's like a drug
addicts' wanting. They may not even want the heroin per se, but they can't help it.
She's got a kind of compulsion about memory and I think it's that aspect of her personality
if you will, the drives her to remember things, and to reflect on them.
NARRATOR dr marcus drew attention to jill's 50,000
pages of diaries. he believed she was just obsessively thinking about her past.
Dr McGaugh How much of this kind of subtle rehearsing
you would have to do in order to have a strong memory of something that happened 20 years
ago.
Dr McGaugh Strong and readily available. Quickly available.
Well, that's the nature of science, that you're sceptical. If I wasn't doing this
I'd be sceptical.
Jill Price I mean, what he did was totally minimise my
life.
Interviewer I guess that's the hard thing about this,
as well isn't it?
Jill Price Well that's what I'm saying.
Interviewer It's your life.
Jill Price It's my life, and I'm not like just a
brain. I have a heart, and I have a soul, and there's a lot of complexes that go along
with it, so. To make it so simplistic like that, totally offended me.
Interviewer I did actually speak to him.
Jill Price Well, you don't need to speak to him because
he doesn't know me. And I find it interesting that anybody would call him to ask about me,
when he doesn't know me.
NARRATOR i suspected it was dr marcus' article that
had made jill reluctant to talk to the media.
NARRATOR but could there be some truth in what he'd
had to say. was there a link with obsessive behaviour? it was something bob petrella had
talked about too.
Bob Petrella You know, I think it's okay to have an obsession
as long as it's not a negative thing.
Bob Petrella You know, if you're stalking a woman then
that's an obsession obviously, that's bad.
NARRATOR bob invited me to his home. to see something
he'd created from memory in 1999.
Bob Petrella So, because I was turning 50 the next year
and it was the end of the millennium, I thought I should choose just for myself, I should
choose my most memorable days of each date of the year. You know, I didn't really hold
back, so there's stuff about drugs, sex and rock and roll in here. And I just called
it, because it's an acronym from my name, and I called it the Book of Bob. B O B. Although
it's not really a book, it's more of a journal. Like, so, today is June 29th, so
it's June 29th 1999, I'm driving home, and then I would just go through all of the
June 29ths that I remember in my life. And then I would go oh, '65, '68, '71, '73.
'73 I remember because I was constipated, and so we were sitting at a restaurant, I
was visiting, and I hadn't gone for about four or five days, and we were sitting in
a restaurant, and Richard Nixon was President at the time, and I could do his voice. And
I suddenly felt like I was able to go, after being constipated, and I did it as Nixon,
and I said 'it's time, I think it's time', you know, so. That was June 29th
'73, it was early in the morning. I did my rankings of the years.
Bob Petrella You know, best year to worst year. '85 and
2004 are tied, and then 2008, 2009, so 2000s were pretty good.
Interviewer Do you think this cataloguing of your life
like this is kind of a little bit unusual Bob?
Bob Petrella Oh, yeah, definitely unusual, but I think
this is what people like me do that have a good memory, 'cause that's one of the
common things, they say they catalogue stuff.
NARRATOR bob's behaviour did seem a little obsessive.
NARRATOR but remembering his history was clearly something
he enjoyed.
Bob Petrella I like having my memories. You know? I mean,
nobody else is gonna remember my life, so why shouldn't I? You know? For Jill, I never
met Jill, but I know, for her, that she is haunted by her memories, and, you know? So
I think it varies with all of us.
NARRATOR it was certainly true that jill was troubled
by her memories.
NARRATOR and there was a limit to how much of her life
she was prepared to share.
Jill Price (on phone) Hello
Interviewer Hi Jill.
Interviewer How you doing?
Interviewer Okay. What about driving? Could we do a little
bit of driving with you?
Interviewer Do you mind talking a bit while we drive?
Jill Price Sure.
Interviewer Are there particular things that you're
happy to talk about?
Jill Price I have no problem talking about any of this
stuff. I just don't really feel like opening up my life. You know? I don't need to do
that. I don't want to do that.
NARRATOR but jill had decided to bring something to
show me. the very thing the wired magazine article had said was evidence of obsession
with her past.
Jill Price Yeah, no, I don't really let people read
these, this is my journal. I've gotten in arguments with people about wanting to read
my journal, and I'm like 'yeah, that's not gonna happen'. It's got everything,
everything, everything. Everybody, everything.
Interviewer It looks very densely written.
Jill Price It is.
Jill Price I don't like lined paper though, I feel
constricted to the line paper.
Interviewer So how many things like this do you have Jill?
Jill Price I started writing in a journal in December
of 1976. And this is the day, and then it goes to the other side. That's why I wrote
really small.
Interviewer How often do you re-read something like the
page you have in your hand.
Jill Price I don't re-read any of it.
Jill Price I've only had to like go back and get all
these because of you guys. I don't re-read these, I don't need to, I don't want to.
Once it's down, it's down and done.
Jill Price You know, it's put away. It's not possible
to sit and memorise. I mean, this is just like a smidge of how many journals I have,
and that would mean that I would just be sitting and spending all my days reading my journals,
and that's the biggest bunch of bullshit that I've ever heard in my life. I don't
write this to remember, I write it so that I don't go crazy.
NARRATOR i left without an explanation of how these
people remembered. but with an understanding of how their ability could complicate life.
NARRATOR when i returned to see aurelien I wondered
how similar he was to the people i'd met. he'd always said that his ability to remember
so much didn't trouble him at all.
Aurelien Oh God. That was.
Aurelien I know that was Mount Fuji day.
Aurelien That was on your birthday 2008.
Aurelien's Father Being able to look at the photographs brings
back memories of the places we used to go, the things we used to do.
Aurelien I place a lot of importance on photos as well.
If there's someone not taking photos of something I instantly do it. And I think that
a photo is the closest thing you can get actually to sort of making a memory into an object
actually.
Aurelien's Father Yeah.
Aurelien It's a concrete memory I think.
Aurelien's Father Yeah, it never goes away, and it's infallible.
NARRATOR aurelien had surprised me by remembering the
start dates of seven series of television show big brother.
Aurelien The 4th series started on the 23rd of May
2003, which was a Friday.
Aurelien The 5th series started on the 28th of May
2004, which was a Friday. The 6th series started on the 27th of May, Friday.
NARRATOR he even correctly recalled the dates individual
contestants were evicted from the house.
Aurelien On 7th Leo was evicted. On the 14th Vicki
was evicted. On the 21st Jane was evicted.
NARRATOR could this be evidence of some kind of obsession?
he didn't seem happy to be tested on it again.
Henry The 27th of May 2005.
Henry He's [UNSURE OF WORD]
Aurelien I don't really wanna do the Big Brother
thing. Sorry.
Henry Why?
Aurelien I just don't wanna do it. Sorry, I don't
wanna answer that question.
Aurelien It's odd to communicate though, I can just
remember these sorts of things.
Aurelien Without even trying, without them having any
importance. I just remember them. I think that would be alien to a lot of people.
Henry I think it's also, it's also kind of a
bit like when you remember, I don't know. You remembered my Great Aunt Margaret's
birthday and stuff like that. And people might think 'oh, you're really weird, remembering
like random people's birthdays', or you're really weird for remembering like what I wore,
like are you some kind of stalker or something. When, like I said, it's just, you don't
choose to remember it, it just stays there.
Aurelien Yeah.
Henry And I think you sometimes, you kind of have
a warped opinion of what people think of it. Like with Big Brother, you're worried that
people think it's weird, like you're some avid fan of it.
Interviewer Well, I know you're not.
Aurelien It's complicated to put across how you can
remember something like that, even though it means nothing.
Aurelien You know, people always think you remember
things which are important, but I think it's an example of where I remembered things which
are completely unimportant, and have absolutely no value at all, but I just happen to remember
them.
NARRATOR aurelien seemed to be interested in what was
different about his memory. before i met him he had contacted a memory research team at
the university of hull.
NARRATOR giuliana mazzoni, a professor of psychology,
had been scouring europe to find someone with aurelien's skill.
Giuliana Mazzoni Do you remember anything about the 20th of
December 2009?
Aurelien Yes, it was a Sunday. The weather was quite
good, it was quite windy.
Giuliana Mazzoni It was for me a sort of revelation that people
can remember the weather on a specific date. It is really, really quite a remarkable thing
to observe, you know? Especially for a person like me who has a very poor memory.
Giuliana Mazzoni Do you have an idea which day of the week
was the 27th?
Aurelien The 27th was a Saturday.
Giuliana Mazzoni I always claimed that actually this was not
possible, because normal memory does not work like that.
Giuliana Mazzoni I think that I have solved one question, which
is this real? And the answer is yes, it is real. The questions that remain are how and
why?
NARRATOR professor mazzoni had been preparing a pioneering
experiment, that might unlock the secrets of aurelien's mind.
Giuliana Mazzoni It is this exceptional cases that actually
give the first hint. You know the first clue to something that we don't know yet. Something
that really might change the way we look about memory retrieval, so it is really an exciting
moment.
NARRATOR we travelled together to the professor's
homeland of italy.
NARRATOR aurelien had an appointment at a hospital,
where the professor had assembled a trusted team. they hoped a brain scan would reveal
what happens when aurelien is remembering.
NARRATOR and the test they were about to do was one
that had never been done before.
Giuliana Mazzoni And I think that we should be almost ready
to go now, which is lovely. Which is exciting. Which is exciting.
Giuliana Mazzoni Aurelien can you hear me?
Aurelien Yeah.
NARRATOR aurelien's brain had never been examined.
professor mazzoni wanted to see if he was different to everyone else.
Giuliana Mazzoni Ooh, look at that! Sorry.
Giuliana Mazzoni The very, very clear picture of the corpus
callosum, which is this part that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. That's
great.
NARRATOR the first scans revealed the brain's structure,
and how well different areas are connected.
NARRATOR but it was the second, our long functional
scan, that the american team hadn't yet done.
Giuliana Mazzoni Okay.
Giuliana Mazzoni We're close to the end of this run.
NARRATOR aurelien's brain activity was recorded as
he remembered what happened on a huge list of dates.
Giuliana Mazzoni No, no, second response, and immediately,
the other bloom.
Aurelien Pink.
Giuliana Mazzoni Okay. Good. Good control.
Giuliana Mazzoni Now, good.
Giuliana Mazzoni Look at suggestions that we need to open a
bottle of Prosecco.
Giuliana Mazzoni Congratulations Aurelien. You made it. I'm
so glad.
Giuliana Mazzoni So, what came out from your brain imaging
data and in particular from the functional data, from the type of activation that was
occurring when you were retrieving the memory initially.
Aurelien Yeah.
Giuliana Mazzoni Okay. Is that you were using a lot of visual
areas.
Aurelien Mmm hmm.
Giuliana Mazzoni So, it is as if those areas are particular
strong in you, and they really help your memory.
NARRATOR in the first moments of retrieving a memory,
it appears that aurelien uses areas of the brain that the rest of us don't.
Giuliana Mazzoni There is something real extraordinary in this
data, because we have been able to see that Aurelien really accesses memories very, very
quickly, compared to the average person. As if the memories are represented as a pre-packaged
fact that so becomes accessible without much effort.
Giuliana Mazzoni I really think that this might tell us about
potentials in the brain that might not be exploited in more in quotes, average, people.
It is wonderful to be able to be at that moment in which things might change, there might
be this small revolution in how we think.
Aurelien My brain caused a revolution.
Giuliana Mazzoni The ultimate question is can we all be trained
in a way that allows us to function like Aurelien?
NARRATOR dr mcgaugh and his team have a group of these
people to study. they've been comparing how the structure of their brains differ from
ours.
NARRATOR but the truth is that neither of these scientists
have yet made sense of this extraordinary skill.
Scientist It's a very rare ability.
Dr McGaugh So, we're doing the Sherlock Holmes detective
work and the answer's gonna be complicated. We know brains of these people differ in some
ways from other people. We know that there's some brain regions that are smaller, some
are larger, and some are different in shape.
Dr McGaugh That's something. It's a beginning. Remember,
it's Sherlock Holmes.
Dr McGaugh The mystery is not solved on page one.
Interviewer And we're still on page one.
Dr McGaugh 23
NARRATOR after a summer spent with these remarkable
people, trying to find out the truth, there's one question that's constantly played on
my mind.
NARRATOR suppose it was possible to have a memory like
this. is it something the rest of us would want?
Jill Price I feel like my memory has ruled my life. I
feel like no matter how, no matter what.
Jill Price My memory has ruled my life. It's like I
remember all the wars. To really think about remembering like 35 years ago right now, and
how you felt, or what someone said to you and how that's never changed.
Jill Price You know? It can be very, very tormenting.
There's not one day that I'm not like stressed out about something, or thinking
about something from 20 years ago that means absolutely nothing today, but still bothers
me or still upsets me, or still pisses me off, and it's ridiculous. But, you know,
it's like yesterday. It really is. It's as if it was yesterday.
Henry I'm parched.
Aurelien Cheers.
Henry But I know you said that you could remember
every single time we've met since we've been together and stuff, are you ever gonna
get annoyed at me for forgetting?
Aurelien No. It doesn't bother me.
Henry You understand it's us lesser mortals are.
Aurelien Yeah.
Henry It might be something that I could get quite
jealous of because, you know, good days that we have together, like today for instance,
you'll remember forever, kind of thing. Whereas I'll kind of, it'll slowly just
sort of fade out of my memory, and I won't.
Aurelien Charming.
Aurelien There's nothing negative about being able
to remember [TALKS OVER EACH OTHER]
Henry No, I don't think there is.
Aurelien I think, the more I think about it, the more
I think it's a really nice thing to have. And I think what's nice is that, now I know
it's something special, I think I'll sort of value it more.
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DOCS: The Boy Who Can't Forget

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林宜悉 published on February 25, 2020
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