We’ve all heard of visual memory, but what about the other four senses? Imagine being able to recall everything you saw, felt, smelled, heard, and even tasted at a specific moment time. For Rebecca Sharrock, that is her reality.
The 28-year-old is one of just 60 people in the world who has been diagnosed with having a highly superior autobiographical memory (H-SAM). When asked to describe a specific date in time, people with this condition can recall almost every detail of their surroundings on that day, as well as how they were feeling at the time.
Neuroscientists have been studying Rebecca and others like her in hopes of better understanding how people without their condition can sharpen and preserve their memory as they age.
Rebecca’s Origin Story
Rebecca is able to recall memories as distant as 12 days after her birth. However, it was many years before she became aware of her unique abilities. As a child, she often found herself struggling to put her book down at bedtime. Her memory provided a solution.
“I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to find a way of reading Harry Potter to myself with my eyes closed,'” recalled Sharrock. “So it came to me, ‘Why don’t I just memorize them?”
A Blessing And A Curse
While the condition has made it harder for Rebecca to manage her anxiety and OCD, her magnificent mind could benefit humanity for centuries to come.
“I am most passionate about finding ways that can enhance memory, so when people are faced with aging, with dementia, we can actually have strategies and ways to intervene to strengthen or hold memory at a level which is functional … so people have a good quality of life for as long as possible,” explained University of Queensland Professor Robinson.
“I think Becky holds the clues … that we can then use to translate into what other people can do to keep memories strong.”