For most of us, the remembrance of days and weeks gone by is rapidly obscured by the clouds of forgetting. Not so for people with what’s known as hyperthymesia or Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. These unusual individuals can recall most of their past with exquisite vividness and detail. For the final day of Digest Super Week, meet hyperthymesic Becky Sharrock:
I have highly superior autobiographical memory
My name is Rebecca Sharrock and I have Hyperthymesia (commonly known as HSAM, or Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory). Until the age of 21 nobody (including myself) had any idea about why distant memories kept invading my thoughts. When memories flash through they are involuntary, very vivid and make me relive past events. In other words, I’m brought back to the same emotional and psychological age I was at the time it happened. I have no control over what memories will flash through my mind, as they are an endless and random stream.
On the 23rd of January, 2011 I found out about HSAM. My Mum and I watched a television show called The View in which the first few people found to have HSAM were being interviewed. After I saw this segment, so many questions had been answered for me. Mum sent an email to the University of California, Irvine (who are studying this newly discovered memory syndrome) stating that she believed I had this condition. The UCI then sent us a reply, saying that they wanted to test me.
I did my first quiz over the phone on the 14th of April, 2011. I was very nervous to begin with, but once I started doing the test I felt relieved and found it easy to do. I was given random dates and asked to recall the day of the week it fell on; and any personal and public events I could remember.
I was told I did very well on the quiz, and I was retested by them on the 9th of April, 2013 when I was old enough to participate in their research study. I am pleased I can now help them with their research. For further HSAM information, please visit my Facebook page Superior Autobiographical Memory Australia.
Ms Rebecca Sharrock lives near Brisbane in Australia. Some of her hobbies include writing, doing Taekwondo (she was awarded her black belt in 2010), reading about foreign countries and science. Harry Potter though, has been her favourite thing since she was nine. About to turn 24 in December, her favourite animals are pigs (“as you may guess from my picture,” she says).
–Further reading and watching–
–Total recall: The man who can remember every day of his life in detail – Research Digest report from last year about a case of hyperthymesia.
–Is superior memory a blessing or a curse? Memory researcher Catriona Morrison (University of Leeds) talks to mnemonists, people with HSAM and researchers.
-Channel 4 documentary: The Boy Who Can’t Forget
–Endless Memory documentary from CBS news.