Brad Williams is a living example of incredible feats of brain power. Williams, a 51-year-old radio news reporter from Wisconsin, has an ability that few people in the world share: he is able to accurately remember the specific dates and circumstances of news events, weather conditions, and personal experiences. Known as hyperthymesia, the superior memory recall skills that exist in Williams' brain are currently under analysis by University of California-Irvine neuroscientists. Researchers are hoping that their findings will provide greater insight regarding the unique brain functions of Williams and other hyperthymestics.
A Look Inside Brad Williams' Amazing Brain
Until recently, Williams was unaware that his photographic memory is attributed to such an unusual brain condition. He has always entertained family and friends with his talents as a "human encyclopedia"--ask him to remember ordinary details of his life as an eight year old on August 18, 1965, and he'll describe eating a burger at Red Barn and sleeping in a motel during a family road trip. A former Jeopardy contestant with a fondness for recalling the dates of significant pop culture events, Williams only set out to explore the nature of his abilities further when his brother came across an article that profiled a woman with hyperthymesia. Her brain was being studied at University of California-Irvine, and Williams decided to contact the neuroscientists as well.
Hyperthymesia and Research Findings
At the University of California-Irvine's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, researchers are performing tests and studies on Williams and the only two other people known to have hyperthymesia. Hoping to find answers about the phenomenon of exceptional memory, scientists are relying on MRI images to determine whether hyperthymestics have a brain structure that varies from that of the average person. Interestingly, the only difference discovered thus far is the larger size of the prefrontal cortex, which is not linked to memory or learning abilities. Williams and the other research subjects have also participated in many psychological exercises designed to test their memories. In preparation for these tests, scientists collect personal data from yearbooks, scrapbooks, or journals provided by family members. Questions about certain dates or events are then presented to the hyperthymestics in order to gauge the accuracy of their autobiographical recall. All of the study participants have scored higher than 90% on these exams, and researchers are hoping to uncover more people who share this extraordinary condition. Their main focus is to discover new methods for treating memory loss.
Brad Williams is currently filming a documentary, "Unforgettable".