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The Woman Who Can't Forget

While it is often acknowledged that only God can truly forget as he forgives, one California woman has taken this axiom to a new level: She can remember key details of her life and the world around her for every day of the past 30 years. And while most people would say they would love to improve their memory, this woman admits that a sharp memory has its down sides.

Recently profiled in the journal Neurocase, "A. J." (as she is called to protect her privacy) has the most astonishing memory scientists have ever tested. She can replay decades of her life like a movie. Give her any date, and she can recall the day of the week, usually what the weather was like, personal details of her life at that time, and major news events that occurred.

After thoroughly testing A. J. over the last six years, Dr. James McGaugh of the University of California at Irvine has decided that she is not using mnemonic devices to memorize data, nor is she a savant with exceptional memory in one area. In fact, this foremost authority on the human memory system is at a loss to explain A. J.'s recall.

"The woman who can't forget" simply says that she intensely feels each day, and remembers trivial details as clearly as major events. Asked what happened on August 16, 1977, she knew that Elvis Presley had died. But beyond celebrity headlines, she also remembered that a California tax initiative passed on June 6 of the following year, and a plane crashed in Chicago on May 25 of the next year.

But a great memory is not all it's cracked up to be. A. J. had to study for exams in school, struggled to memorize dates for history class, and still has to make a weekly grocery list.

When asked if she considered her memory a gift, A. J. said: "Well, if I'm able to cure a disease, it's a gift. But to remember, like, the end of every relationship…it's hard."

Perhaps the ability to forget should be considered a gift as well.

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