Imagine never having to take notes during a meeting. Or rely on Facebook to remember how you celebrated your birthday five years ago.
That’s a distant fantasy for most of us. But it’s actress Marilu Henner’s reality. She has what’s called Highly Superior Auto-Biographical Memory, or H-SAM. It’s a very rare ability to recall specifically what you did on a specific date.
Of course, there’s also a flip side — you don’t get to surround yourself only with happy, giddy memories. Breakups, bad days, layoffs, they’re all right there and easily accessible. But Henner doesn't mind.
"No! Never! It's like having Google in your brain. You can always find things," she says.
She has a suggestion for boosting your memory power: Each night, while brushing your teeth, scroll through what you did that day, twice. "I woke up, I did this, I did this and see what might land the second the time," she says.
And also, recognize which senses are your most dominant.
"Everyone remembers one thing particularly well," says Henner. "In the jigsaw puzzle of your life, what are the hard-edged pieces? Some people it's what they wear, or what they eat, or places they traveled. Everyone has a dominant sense: sight, sound, touch, taste or smell. You learn how to cross-connect them to figure out how you retain, receive and retrieve memories."
Henner also has real-life superpowers, it seems. She helped her husband Michael Brown battle bladder and lung cancer, and chronicled it all in the book “Changing Normal: How I Helped My Husband Beat Cancer.” Today, Brown is healthy, and his wife is his biggest cheerleader.
Naturally, the running joke between the two is that he can't ever win an argument, since Henner has great recall.
"Michael will never say, 'You win,'" she jokes.