The Lady With the Longest Memory In Australia

Wednesday February 21, 2018 Written by Smith

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The Kaufman/Gondry film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind explores both the beauty and the horror of being trapped inside one's own mind. It asks us to ponder how much our memories define who we are, shape our sense of self and are portents of our future. 

What happens, though, when you remember everything? Becky Sharrock, who was recently interviewed on the ABC Radio National show All in the Mind, remembers every one of her 28 birthdays. She's one of approximately 60 people in the world with this type of exceptional memory, known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory or HSAM.

"I don't remember leaving the womb, but I remember being in a bed with glass walls around me and I was on a cotton blanket and my head was up, just looking, at just mainly the ceiling above me and the heads of the people who were putting blankets on me and dressing me," she tells ABC journalist Lynne Malcolm.

And if you're in any doubt about Becky's memory, take a read of this extract from the transcript of the radio interview: 

Lynne Malcolm: Can I give you some dates and you let me know what you remember about those dates?

Becky Sharrock: Yes.

Lynne Malcolm: The first one, 4 September 2006.

Becky Sharrock: 4 September 2006 was a Monday, and on that particular day I was going to my therapist who I was seeing for my autism. I was on my way to see him when my stepdad called my mum and said, 'Did you hear Steve Irwin died from a stingray?' 

The podcast, which also features an interview with the University of Queensland researcher who is studying Becky, is pretty special. Thought-provoking, surprising, poetic and moving stuff; well worth a listen.

Image: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind