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What’s HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory)?

Rebecca Sharrock opens up about HSAM

Australian Rebecca Sharrock can remember the details of every experience and every day since she was born, she has HSAM.

Only 80 people around the world are known to have the condition known as HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory), 27-year-old Rebecca Sharrock from Australia is one of them.

Sharrock recently shared her experience with HSAM in a blog post on Omni, one of them, here first ever memory from when she was only 12 days old.

“My parents carried me to the driver’s seat of the car (my father’s idea) and placed me down upon it for a photo. As a newborn child I was curious as to what the seat cover and steering wheel above me were. Though at that age I hadn’t yet developed the ability to want to get up and explore what such curious objects could be”, she wrote.

First diagnosed in 2006, HSAM is a very rare condition that gives people a memory so powerful they can remember everything in detail – every experience, every happy moment, every sad moment, from every day.

Because of this condition, Sharrock could remember her first dream and what she thought of it.

“When I was about 18 months old (assumably because it was before my second birthday yet I was out of my crib) I began to dream whenever I fell asleep. At that age I thought that I really was leaving home each night, so I’d always want my mum with me while I was sleeping.”

While many might believe having HSAM is an incredible gift, she tells the world how exhausting it could be. “This makes me unable to forget any day of my life, and I’m also constantly reliving my past (emotionally) in clear-cut detail,” she wrote. While Sharrock can relive the happiest memories in her life, she can also remember grief and pain, along with the emotions that she felt at the time.

Rebecca Sharrock is currently helping two universities look closer into Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. The is part of studies with the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Queensland and the Queensland Brain Institute. Researchers at these universities are studying Sharrok’s condition to try to understand how a person’s memory works, and to hopefully learn how people develop dementia or Alzheimers.

You can read Rebecca Sharrock blogpost titled “I Can Remember Back to When I Was a Newborn Child” on Omni.

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