Photographic memory

I have been thinking about photographic memory which some individuals have endowed with. This mental "aberration" possible be by genetic origin but is not possible that it is also a consequence of increased number of synaptic conections in reason of train and experience? Is it possible that a normal individual could have his or her memory improved with a large amount of studing, challenge of new knowledge, practice of new activities, living in rich environments, etc?

Dr. Silvia Helena Cardoso, PhD. Psichobiologist, Center for Biomedical Informatics, State University of Campinas (São Paulo), Brazil


Inicially, I would not define photographic memory as an aberration (anomaly, abnormality). It is nothing more than a characteristic of mnemonic system which apparently is more developed in some individuals. I think that cognitive exercice can be used to increase significantly the mnemonic circuit. It has been described in the literature that during learning there are many neurochemical alterations (such as release of messagers RNA, so called c-fos, c-jun or c-trans) and morphological ones (such as dendritics sprouting, formation of new synapses and presentation of pre-exisisting synapses furthemore could be also deformation of new receptors which could serve as a code information. However, we cannot absolutly discard the genetic determination which would favor the implantation of these mechanisms and nervous circuits.

Dr. Norberto Cysne Coimbra, MD, PhD.  nccoimbr@fmrp.usp.brLaboratory of Neuroanatomy and Neuropsichobiology, Department of Morphology, Faculty of Medicine, Ribeirão-Preto USP (São Paulo), Brazil



I agree with Dr. Silvia Cardoso that cultural environment can favor photographic memory, adding that it might also, un-favor it. The teaching of how to read (alphabetization) is mainly verbal. I believe that this may privilege the auditory em detriment of visual systems.

j.c.camargo@acs.com.br


Cultural environment would un-favor memory if it were absolutely poor in stimuli, which rarely happens. When considering language, which could appear at first sight a poor stimulation process, it can actually use other mnemonic resources of great value.

Still, I should call attention to the fact that language is a highly developed and complex cortical activity, requiring the action of various cortical areas for its good performance, as the anterior area of language, which is responsible for the speech, and the posterior language area, which function is expressed in the comprehension of the spoken (heard) and written (seen) word.

Lesions in the Broca and Vernicke areas produce motor and sensory aphasia, respectively. Upon considering these facts, I believe we should have in mind that, for the formation of an engram during the formation of language, the cerebral cortex must utilize motor, visual, and sound resources, so that it results in an adequate learning.

Would the presence of a neural circuit responsible for the photographic memory, which could be utilized during the formation of language engrams favor learning even in a situation of poor stimuli? Could poverty in stimuli be compensated by a more complex neural network, or is the presence of rich stimuli situations what would favor the appearance of a more exuberant network of nervous connections ?

Norberto Cysne Coimbra, MD, PhD, Neuroanatomist, Molecular Neurobiologist, Morphologist, University of São Paulo, Brazil


The well based answer given by Dr. Norberto Coimbra does not conflicts with the question asked by myself. Indeed, when asking about the [preference given in teaching the auditory system], it did not mean the visual and chinesthetic systems have been abandoned, usually for being aware that brain registers sounds and colors. We are in agreement exactly for this reason . Now, the question asked by the respectable Dr. Norberto Coimbra Would it be that the presence of a neural network responsible for the photographic memory, which could be utilized during the formation of language engrams, favor learning even in situations of poor stimuli?" This contrived a doubt in myself, which is: could a blind by birth person have a photographic memory?

José Carlos Camargo


I am niether a proffessional in the field, nor know much about the = subject of neurological science, however I do have an uncanny ability to = remember details of peoples faces/ clothing/ mannerisms etc. and also = places, and directions and routes, having only been exposed to them on = one occasion, and not making any concious effort to remember/ register. = This is short term as well as long term. I have clear pictures from a = very young age all of which are acurate, I can also remember a movie in = great detail many years down the line. People have always commented on = my ablity to recall such detailed information, but it seems to be coming = more apparent know that I am older, (probably because I now take the = time to notice!). The reason I am writing is to find out what can be done to extend this = ability, and if enhanced what areas of work it could be used in.
Your sincerely, Kerry Mythen.

Kerry Mythen


Center for Biomedical Informatics
State University of Campinas, Brazil

Silvia Helena Cardoso, PhD

Copyright 1997 State University of Campinas