Do you remember the time…? How – with a bit of work – we can all have Hollywood star Marilu Henner"s super-power memory

Do you remember the time… How – with a bit of work – we can all have Hollywood star Marilu Henner's super-power memory

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UPDATED:

21:46 GMT, 24 April 2012

Marilu Henner is probably more famous these days for her incredible memory than she is for her Hollywood career.

But now the Taxi star-turned-self-help guru who, thanks to a rare brain condition, is able to recall almost every day of her life with absolute clarity, wants to help others do the same.

In her new book, Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future, Henner teaches readers how to access the memories they have otherwise forgotten so they can make better choices in the future.

Not exactly an elephant: Actress and self-help-guru Marilu Henner can remember almost every day of her life and now with the help of her new book we can train our memories too

Not exactly an elephant: Actress and self-help-guru Marilu Henner can remember almost every day of her life and now with the help of her new book we can train our memories too

The author is one of about 12 people in the world known to have Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, a condition that affords her the unique ability to look back at her patterns of past behaviour and learn from them.

She explains in her introduction:
'You may not be consciously connecting (this) past information to what you are doing in the present but you should be.

'You are constantly responding to now because of back then. When you are
cognizant of your memories and call upon them as needed it keeps you
from making the same mistakes over and over again.'

Though her skill comes naturally, she believes that revisiting experiences and events is about training the brain and challenging it in a way we are not often required to do these days.

The memories are always there, she believes, but the ability to access them is most often lost.

As a child, she told WellBella magazine,
she was always thinking about what she was doing before, during and
after the moment; an exercise she says helps greatly with memory
improvement.

Old memories: Marilu Henner (left) with the cast of television show,Taxi that starred Judd Hirsch (centre) Danny Devito (sitting) Andy Kaufman (right)

Old memories: Marilu Henner (left) with the cast of television show,Taxi that starred Judd Hirsch (centre) Danny Devito (sitting) Andy Kaufman (right)

'My father used to say that
everything in life is anticipation, participation and recollection
(APR), and the greatest of these is recollection,' she explained.

'So I started looking at my life as, Oh, I’m going to be doing
this; oh, now I’m doing it; now I’m looking back on it. My memory would
grab onto these experiences and sort of relish in the reliving of them
or the thinking of them or the looking forward to them.'

This approach of 'gathering,
analyzing and storing your life information' is just one strategy that
helps retain the memories of your life.

'You are constantly responding to now because of back then. When you are cognizant of your memories and call upon them as needed it keeps you from making the same mistakes over and over again.'

Memory
she explains in her book is broken down most simply into two
categories: short term and long term. Short term is what allows you to
remember a phone number just long enough to dial it.

Long
term is far more complex. Under the umbrella of long term memory are
various types that deal with different areas such as learning to drive
and revising for an exam.

Autobiographical memory however, is
what Henner focuses on; the ability to revisit the past by using
personal experience, objects, emotions and general knowledge to trigger
memories of your life.

The first step in piecing together a timeline is to find what the author calls your 'Track'.

This
is your primary connection to other memories; the theme that is most
prominent as you go through life. For example, food, career,
relationships, exercise.

Life
is like a jigsaw puzzle, Henner explains, and all the experiences are
the thousands of pieces scattered about your house, not lost but
unconnected.

'Your Track pieces are like the straight-edged border pieces of the puzzle… You can't randomly place pieces in the middle: you need other properly placed pieced to link with them,' she explains.

With a questionnaire to help, Henner helps the reader identify their Track as a way to kick start the associations and connections that essentially piece memories.

More than what's up there: Total Memory Makeover is available from April 24

More than what's up there: Total Memory Makeover is available from April 24

Throughout the book, the author asks detailed and specific questions about family, school, holidays, jobs and scores of other subjects, prompting the reader to recall certain things that help steer them towards another memory.

As an aide, she looks to the senses, pointing out how touch, smell, sound, sight and feel can trigger a memory as well.

For some, the odour of something will send them back to a holiday in Greece whereas for others, the sound of an old song will send them on a time travel.

When a memory is sparked, Henner encourages the reader to spend time with it and probe further into it.

Memory she says is a muscle that requires warming up and flexing.

Exercises and daily tasks are among the many ways Henner pushes the reader to keep honing this muscle.

For instance she suggests reviewing the day when brushing teeth and night and then trying to remember the same time a year ago.

Today's technology has made us lazy, Henner explains and we aren't required to use our brains this way anymore.

Total Memory Makeover also features a chapter on how memory can be helped by diet and exercise.

'Being smart and making the right choices in these areas can have an enormously positive impact on your overall function,' she says.

Eating vegetables and fibre, drinking sensibly and keeping fit and active are just a few ways that the body can keep the mind ticking over like a well-oiled car.

Though it may all sound like a lot of work, the challenge says Henner, is worth it.

'When we're young , we take memory for granted. As we get older, we genuinely fear losing it – not only because the ability itself can face with age, but also because we are finally wise enough to know its true value.'