Marilu Henner Has a Rare Memory Skill Shared by Only 100 People Worldwide

Getty Marilu Henner attends the closing night Battlestar Galactica reunion and after-party in 2017.

On Hallmark’s  Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, Aurora’s mom Aida Teagarden (played by Marilu Henner) has an impressive memory. The character comments in Reunited & It Feels So Deadly: “Besides, you know, I remember everything.” This is actually a nod to Henner’s amazing memory in real life. The actress has hyperthymesia, which means that she can remember everything that happened to her, 365 days out of a year. It’s a rare brain condition that fewer than 100 people around the world have been diagnosed with.

Henner Can Remember Everything that Ever Happened to Her in Clear Detail

Henner has a rare memory called “highly superior autobiographical memory” (HSAM) or hyperthymesia. In an interview with Queen Latifah, Henner talked more about her memory. Henner said that most people remember about eight to 11 days in any year, while people with HSAM remember 365 days out of a year. She said that most people when remembering an older memory will typically switch to third person. She was even a consultant for CBS’ Unforgettable, which was about a woman with HSAM.

“HSAMers, we’re always in first person looking out from our eyes,” she explained. She added that she’s not a trivia expert — her memory only works for her own experiences.

During the interview, Queen Latifah tested Henner and asked her what happened on specific dates in her life. First she asked her about January 17, 1994.

“That was a Monday,” Henner said. “That was the very famous earthquake in Los Angeles… I was pregnant with my son Nick. … It felt like a 747 was trying to land on our house. … There was a great aftershock on March the 20th … and I was actually having my baby shower that day.”

Next she asked her about September 9, 1979. Henner was able to immediately recall that day.

“I was with my sister Crystal at the Emmy Awards,” she said. “…Taxi won its first Emmy Award.”

She Offers Advice for Improving Your Memory

She did have advice during her interview with Queen Latifah on how others can improve their memories.

“At night when you’re brushing your teeth, just scroll through your day,” she said. “Just do a little montage of your day. Is there anything worth remembering today? And just that second time through is gonna make you sear it onto your brain a little bit better. Plus if you’re a visual type of person…take a little picture of the day. Not a selfie that’s gonna give you plastic surgery later, but some type of photo of the day.”

She Said She Had This Great Memory Since She Was at Least 6

In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Henner said she had the memory since she was at least six-years-old.

“It was kind of time travel for me and I loved it,” she said about her ability to remember what happened to her in the past.

She said whenever she sees someone she hasn’t met in a long time, she can recall what they ate when they last saw each other and other details of their last meeting.

She said that in 2009, she spent four days being tested on camera and proving her unique memory skills. She’s continued being tested by doctors since then, she added.

“What they discovered is that we have nine areas — they’ve taken 300 measurements of our brains — but they’ve discovered there are nine areas that are 10 times larger than the normal brain. And when you see the scan it’s kind of freaky, but it’s cool.”

Fewer than 100 People Have Been Diagnosed with HSAM

The first person diagnosed with HSAM was Jill Price after she contacted a doctor in 2000, Time reported. In fact, fewer than 100 people in the world have been diagnosed with HSAM, Time reported in 2017. But one doctor did tell Time that more than 600 people had contacted him saying they thought they had the ability (although ultimately, only 60 were diagnosed out of the group.)

Price had wanted help for her condition because she couldn’t control her memories, saying that she’d automatically have a flashback of what happened to her when a date was on TV or anywhere else.

Price said: “It is non-stop, uncontrollable, and totally exhausting.”

Not everyone thinks of HSAM that way, though. Henner sees it as a gift.

“I’ve always thought of it as a gift,” she told the Archive of American Television. “I’m thrilled that I have it. It’s never been a burden. I get asked all the time, ‘Well what about a bad breakup and stuff?’ And I always say, ‘Hey, memories’ tied to adrenaline. You’re gonna remember the highs and the lows. If you don’t process the lows, they become these emotional boogeymen that sort of stranglehold your life, so why not process them? But I’m interested in bringing back those sweeter little Our Town moments that we all have.”

The memory is different from a photographic memory, Time reported. So the people with this memory might still not be good with names or details like remembering where they left their keys.

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