Woman Who Can't Forget Amazes Doctors
Diane Sawyer talks to Jill Price, who re-lives her past and astounds doctors.
May 9, 2008— -- What would you do if you couldn't forget anything in your life? For most of us, our memories fade as we age, and only the occasional song, smell or photo will take us back to a particular time and place.
But for the woman formerly known to the world as simply "A.J.," her memory is so powerful that it dominates her life. She sat down with ABC News' Diane Sawyer recently to reveal herself publicly in the hopes that others with unusual memories like hers will come forward and be studied.
In her first television interview, 42-year-old Jill Price told Sawyer, "I am in the moment, but I also have, like this split screen in my head. I always explain it to people like I'm walking around with a video camera on my shoulder. And every day is a videotape. So if you throw a date out at me, it's as if I pulled a videotape out, put in a VCR and just watched the day. As it happened. From my point of view.
"I walk around with my life right next to me," she said.
Price, who lives in California and works as an assistant at a religious school, has been remembering her life like this almost every day since she was 14. At times, it seems as though her gift is like a party trick — ask her about the last episode of "Dallas," and she'll immediately tell you that it aired on May 3, 1991. The day of the Lockerbie plane crash? "December 21, 1988," she replied instantly. Ronald Reagan's death? "June 5, 2004."
Price remembers what she was doing on those days, just as she relives every moment of her life, good and bad. It's not just the look of her first crush that she remembers, it's the painful sting of rejection. Price acknowledges that it can be paralyzing.
Eight years ago, she reached out to memory specialists at the University of California-Irvine for help. Dr. James McGaugh led a team who studied her for six years, and says he was stunned.
"She wrote down the dates of the last 20 Easters, and she was off, I think, by two days on one of them," he said. "And she's Jewish!"
McGaugh and his team tested Price with questions from a master list in an historical almanac, asking her when Elvis died, or about episodes of her favorite TV shows. Dr. Larry Cahill works with Dr. McGaugh and questioned Price about a Christmas special on "Murphy Brown."