Avoir une mémoire vertigineuse : c

Some people have memories of elephants (literally), they are able to remember impressive details, they are said to be hypermnesic.

In the HPI series broadcast by TF1, the heroine, Morgane Alvaro (played by Audrey Fleurot) has an extraordinary photographic memory. She is able to remember a microscopic detail from a crime scene and relate it to another detail learned while watching a documentary on television, in order to draw her conclusions… In addition to ‘be high intellectual potential (HPI), his character is endowed with a vertiginous photographic memory. And it has a name, hypermnesiawhich is the opposite of amnesia, whose definition in Larousse is having a “special acuity of memory”.

Hypermnesia, what is it?

According to the Esanum medical community website, hypermnesia was first described in the 19th century. The term comes from the Greek thymesis, which means “to remember”. It is characterized by the fact of not forgetting anything, of having an infallible memory, unlike amnesia which consists in deleting events from one’s memory. In both cases, there is no particular desire on the part of the subject to store the information or to delete it, this is done in spite of himself. Hypermnesiacs are not people with a good memory, we speak of an “oversized” capacity to remember.

The Center national de Ressources textuelles et lexicales describes this faculty as a “delirium of memory characterized by a simultaneous and uncontrolled recall of many facts of the past life, presented in a heterogeneous way, and accompanied by false recognitions”. Moreover, Esanum specifies it: the memory is often autobiographical and the elements occur like flashes without having been invitedto the point of “becoming very paralyzing for the person, because very invasive in their daily life”.

What are the causes of hypermnesia?

But how is it explained? Hypermnesia could, according to Esanum, result from trauma. The online community of doctors explains that cases of hypermnesia have been diagnosed in former deportees during the Second World War. There could, again according to Esanum, be “a malfunction between short-term memory and long-term memory. Thus the buffer memory which should normally be erased migrates into the area of ​​long-term memory”.

A 2021 study carried out on an octogenarian Italian man with hypermnesia, and relayed by the blog Réalités biomédicales du Monde, points out that the MRI of his brain does not show that the latter has a particular size or areas that would be larger than normal. inside the organ. But another man’s case, revealed in 2018, highlighted that MRI detected “greater than normal connectivity between the left hippocampus and multiple left cortical regions”. Yet another example revealed a brain with more gray matter and greater connectivity but in another region of the brain… There would therefore be no established morphological variation to explain hypermnesia.

What are the consequences ? Is there a treatment?

Hypermnesia can be cumbersome for those who experience it and expose them to anxiety. “Hypermnesia can even in certain situations become a psychopathological problem characterized by permanent anxiety and anguish, including the anguish of losing one’s memory”, notes the Esanum site.

It can lead to a “paranoid-type delusional state” explains the online medical community. To soothe patients who suffer from their flashes, anxiolytic treatments can be prescribed.

Sources: CNTRL, Biomedical Realities, Esanum.

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