Imagine being able to recall any day in your life from mid-childhood on in minute detail: what you did, where you went, who you met along the way, even what you ate during meals and what the weather was like. That is the reality for people living with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM). A neurological condition, HSAM is exceedingly rare. Only about 100 people around the world have been formally diagnosed with it. However, it is believed that HSAM could play an important role in helping scientists better understand and treat other neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Among those eager to learn more about this phenomenon is Maeghan Rodd ’22. A biology major from Alfred, N.Y., Rodd arrived at Le Moyne with plans to become a cardio-thoracic surgeon. She’d initially heard about HSAM while watching the TV medical drama House, and it piqued her interest. Later she took a course in neurobiology with Chair and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Patrick Yurco, Ph.D., that “blew her mind,” She became fascinated by the human brain, and decided to change her professional course entirely. Rodd found herself reading everything she could about HSAM, and began discussing it with Dr. Yurco. She became so interested in the condition that it became the centerpiece of her thesis for the College’s Integral Honors Program. Specifically, Rodd investigated whether there is a link between HSAM and PTSD and traumatic experiences.
Now, with graduation behind her, Rodd’s eyes are focused squarely on the future. She recently accepted a research position in the field of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in association with Harvard Medical School. In addition, she hopes one day to publish the thesis that she wrote at Le Moyne. (Because the study of HSAM is relatively new, there are very few peer-reviewed academic articles on the subject.) Beyond that, she hopes one day to school to complete a joint M.D.-Ph.D. program.
Rodd credits her time at Le Moyne with furthering her intellectual growth and development and setting her on this distinct path. Studying the sciences at a predominantly liberal arts institution was, she said, “the best of both worlds.” She loved biology classes she took, yes, but she also relished the opportunity to immerse herself in other disciplines, like Judaism and philosophy. She learned to think more critically and creatively, and to push herself beyond her comfort zone. Those are skills that she will use whatever the future holds.