Reporting Stephanie Stahl
By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s like an easy game for 14-year-old Alyssa Kramer. She can easily say words backwards in seconds. Her video on YouTube quickly got a million hits, and now she has her own channel: alyssatalkingback.com. CBS3 asked when she realized she had the special ability.
“Whenever I learned how to read, I just started doing it. I have a photographic memory, and whenever someone tells me a word, I can see it in my head. And if I want to spell it backwards then, it can flip and I’ll read it that way,” Alyssa says.
But even with her remarkable ability, she’s still a typical teenager who enjoys hanging out with her friends or family at the beach and playing softball.
To see just how amazing Alyssa’s ability is, we gave her a few random things we like to say around here. Things like ‘Go Phillies,’ ‘City of Brotherly Love’ and ‘I love Philadelphia,’ and she easily said them backwards quickly.
“I’m sure it’s quite uncommon,” said Dr. William Schetman with Lankenau Medical Center, who watched Alyssa’s video.
He says her ability probably is not a memory function, like it is for people who have something called Superior Autobiographical Memory. It’s been shown that people with that ability have slight differences in their brain structure. With Alyssa, experts think her mind has a special ability, but they don’t exactly know what it is.
“Different areas of your brain serve different purposes, and in this very distinct area that’s taking in language, that she has this ability again to sort of interpret language on a two way street,” Dr. Schetman explains.
And it might not be as rare as you think.
“I could do just as well,” says CBS 3 Reporter Nicole Brewer, who can also instantly say words backwards. “It’s definitely weird; my family always got a kick out of it. They were always giving me words…it’s a little stupid human trick.”
Nicole and Alyssa’s ability isn’t called anything, and there is no official diagnosis. It’s a special kind of mental and visual process. And while doctors say that most of us probably won’t be able to learn how to instantly reverse words, we can keep our brains in good shape with things like reading, writing, and doing puzzles.