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Health: Teen Speaks To CBS3 About Her Ability To Instantly Say Words Backwards

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.

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Comments

One Comment

  1. Luke Turner says:

    Girl I work with can do the same thing. Its amazing. She reckons she can do it better because she silents the G’s…

  2. ada l says:

    They have a name for that ability now “remarkassyla” — “Alyssa Kramer” backwards.

    1. mia says:

      funneeeee….I have been talking backwards PHONETICALLY since I was 5 years old…I reverse phrases and words in 3 phonetic variations instantaneously…i’ve appeared on NPR, Regis, Fox and many radio shows…I believe it’s a function of memory…as long as I can retain a phrase fowards, I can reverse it backwards…when you reverse the tape, it comes out a bit odd since the intonation throws the sounds a bit off..but it’s close…i also do comedy and reverse bits of The Wizard of Oz! ALyssa is adorable, though! Best, Randee Mia Berman

  3. JBC says:

    0bama can hire her to write his speeches. Everything else 0bama does is backwards. Starting with putting the government so deep in debt there is no way out.

  4. Spoke Edwards says:

    What does it sound like if the tape is run backwards?

  5. SNAKESRULE says:

    not that impressive…ask any sailor who stands watch on a carrier and writes and tracks aircraft backward during cyclic air ops…so the rest of the CIC can read them…with lives and airplanes at risk

    1. McSorley says:

      Yea I used to have a close family friend who had that job and he would write letters to us backwards for fun. You have to admit tho this gal would be a natural for a job like that.

    2. Ben Franklin says:

      The White House has issued a call, for all journalists, to report on nonsense stories, to deflect attention away from the failed policies of Obama.

      this story is just one more example..and you will see similar stories, from now, until November.

    3. rufrignkidnme says:

      no, I had that job and 1. those things should be nearly totally out of service now that aeigis radar is prevelant and 2 also .. we didn’t write the words backwards in reverse.. we just wrote them backwards.. so example backwards not elpmaxe … if that makes sense.

  6. whoeveriwant2b says:

    I can say things upside down. Is there a scholarship for that?

  7. Schuler says:

    They had a guy on Johnny Carson years ago who could do this.

  8. Kelvin says:

    Well good. Now they can go work for the Obama administration where everything is bass ackwards.

    1. matt2717 says:

      Maybe. But I’d give my entire net worth to see her operate Obama’s teleprompter.

  9. Jebster says:

    In about the 80’s the great Steve Goodman teamed up with Mike Smith
    to write a great song called “Talk Backward ”

  10. paul says:

    I just hope they cut the advertiser at the begining of the video a break for advertising to THE ENTIRE PLANET!

  11. Armed Texan says:

    This is nothing. We have a President who can talk out both sides of his mouth at the same time.

    1. Ruckus says:

      And talk out of his “arse” at the same time

  12. Crazy_Redneck says:

    “With Alyssa, experts think her mind has a special ability, but they don’t exactly know what it is.”

    If they don’t know, why do they still call them “experts”?

    1. Infinity Well says:

      Here is one more for you.

      Ever notice when something that might be “Islamic Terrorism” happens, the “experts” often will say –

      “We do not know what caused it” QUICKLY FOLLOWED BY “But it is not Islamic Terrorism”.

  13. ObayJuan says:

    If you practice at things like this long enough, it becomes easy and natural to do. For example, for years at my job, I watched an oscilloscope while listening to various sounds, music, people’s voices, etc. and I eventually developed an associative mental image of sounds as I heard them. Yeah, I see music, old joke, heard it a million times. But aside from that as a novelty, I can distinguish one person’s voice pattern from another even if the pitch is electronically altered and I can easily tell if a singer is using any type vocal effects such as auto-tune. I can tell the difference between patterns in various animal calls, distinguish between two different animals that have similar sounds and have noticed similarities between vocal patterns of very different animals. i.e. some whales and song birds have similar patterns although the whale sounds are very low pitch with long waves, but the patterns are very close.

    1. davidfarrow says:

      Your family must be very proud.

  14. MDWhite says:

    Behold…Obama’s new Press Secretary !

    1. BillE says:

      Dude, you can’t look at a cute little story like this without making a snide Obama comment? You need to take some time away from Drudge and Rush. Maybe go camping for a few days or something.

      1. JoeBama says:

        Everything is about Maobama. HE is the chosen ONE.
        BTW, she would not be a good Maobama press secretary, she can speak without a teleprompter.

      2. TomB says:

        Lighten up, Francis.

      3. ConservativeRedneck says:

        Don’t blame them, it’s all Bush’s fault

      4. shempus says:

        Awww, pipe down, Biwee Boyee. What a licnep-dekcen dratfel!

      5. rufus levin says:

        obama has just put a tax on camping, and declared that camping on govt land is forbidden for environmental reasons, and only black people are allowed preferences in camp locations.

  15. JCrown84 says:

    Oh for god’s sake – she’s not brain damaged or challenged just because she can do something really weird! Lots of people can do something really wierd. Everyone wants to diagnose every form of difference – give it some sort of name, so they can feel more comfortable with it. Judging from the comments – many many people can do this same thing or something similar – I guess we’re all brain damaged and super super special. If everyone is special, no one is.

  16. Duncan Macleod says:

    The simplest explanation is demon possession.

    1. Marbran says:

      Best post yet!

      1. kbuzz says:

        Oh gosh yes…what a great post!

    2. GozieBoy says:

      !noissessop nomed eb dluow tahT

  17. the_logician says:

    If someone records her saying things backwards and then they play the tape backwards, do the words sound perfectly clear when played forwards? Now *THAT* would be a good trick!

    1. PhlyPhisher says:

      Spelling a work backwards and then pronoucing it that way isn’t like saying the same word as it is normally spelled and pronounced, recording it, then running the recording in reverse.

      As far as visualizing some group of symbols or objects in your mind and then visualizing the same being rotated, turned, mirrored or etc. is why people are good at reconizing stuff regardless of relationship of the symbol/object’s position to the viewer. Try writing backwards or mirrored or backwards and mirrored together, it isn’t really that hard. Actually it is pretty easy to do with just a little practice.

    2. Ray Walker says:

      Now that’s outside the box! Still chuckling!

      1. cm says:

        i was curious about the same thing. that would be true backmasking, like in stairway to heaven.

        simply reversing letters doesn’t accurately reverse the phonemes. each phoneme has to be reversed and pronounced backward.

  18. oldbill07 says:

    I will be 66 in April graduated H. S. in 1965. We had a teacher who could do that at will. If a class was not paying attention he would begin to do it.

  19. JEltonJ says:

    I could always say SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS backwards as boy, cause I watched Mary Poppins do it.

  20. Kay says:

    Our son had severe Tourette’s syndrome. When at it’s most severe, he could say long sentences backward as quickly as he could forward. Not only was it sentences backwards, but he could say the words backwards so he was saying the words and sentences backwards as fast as talking forward. He was 9-14 years old then. His teachers were freaking out. He’s 36 now, his TS is moderate and no more backwards talking!

  21. Chrissakes says:

    There is no such thing a a photographic memory

    1. Callahsr says:

      You are correct. The medical term for it is Eidetic memory

    2. Leah from Ohio says:

      What about Poppy Montgomery in the TV show “Unforgettable?”

  22. David says:

    I think the doctor was right, this is a combination of several skills. I “see” words (also music, but only one melody line at a time!) written out in my head if I want to. Got me through a few spelling bees! Being able to reverse it is another thing, I can read a printed word backwards but not one that I visualize in my head, at least not easily. Then being able to phoneticize it and pronounce it is another skill. Being able to do all three quickly is even more impressive. I’m guessing she’s pretty sharp. Some of us Okies do pretty well. ;-)

  23. tadchem says:

    This requires a combination of two skills.
    One is geometric spatial manipulation; the ability to visualize something in three dimensions, and then rotate, reflect, or invert it. This is the ability to read mirror writing and to read an upside down page
    The other is complex spatial visualization – the ability to build a mental image of something complex such as a written word or a large organic molecule (something like hexaethyltetramine, with its 40 atoms).
    She first imagines the word, then reverses it, and finally ‘reads’ it aloud.
    With practice this can be done as quickly as one can speak the words.

  24. K. Johnson says:

    It’s unusual, but not that surprising. Mozart could speak whole utterances backward as fluently as forward, and in three or four languages.

  25. Echo4Texas says:

    If you go to Youtube and type in Johnny Carson backward talking man you will see this is not new. It is worth the time just to see how Doc Severson is pronounced backwards.

  26. Patryk says:

    On a serious note, it actually sounds like a mild form of brain damage. The two sides of her brain may not be effectively communicating — or communicating too much. I say these because I have a similar “skill.” That being with my right hand I write forwards and with my left hand, I write backwards. It is sometimes called “incomplete dominance” of the cerebral hemispheres. I doubt she is insane or anything, her brain is just either “mis-wired” or slightly damaged.

    1. JCrown84 says:

      She’s not freakin brain damaged just because she has a skill. Everyone wants to be special.

  27. eujodol says:

    I can do the same thing, only frontwards.

  28. alisa kablotsky says:

    This isn’t news. LOTS of people can do this. There was a comedian known as Professor Backwards who could do this. Unfortunately he was murdered. Chevy Chase delivered the classic Saturday Night Live Weekend News Update:

    “Professor Backwards, the entertainer who had the bizarre ability to speak backwards, was killed today in College Park, Georgia. Passersby apparently ignored the Professor’s cries of ‘Pleh! Pleh!'”

  29. me says:

    Who the hell is Nicole??

  30. Pat says:

    I am right handed, but I can write anything backwards with my left hand, and normally with my right hand, simultaneously, without hesitation in the left hand. It’s not pretty, but it’s legible, and the key thing is that there is no hesitation or forethought in the execution. It’s something I discovered I could do when I was a little boy.
    Her ability is similar, and though I can’t do it, I can sense how she does it because of my own similar ability.

    1. rlh83 says:

      I can do the same thing.

    2. Rational Db8 says:

      When I was young I could write anything in mirror image upside down just a hair slower than I could write normally. Over the years since I didn’t keep practicing what was a fun trick as a kid, I’m no longer able to do it quickly. I’ve got no problems reading upside down tho. I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t because I’m ambidextrous.

      1. Mary says:

        Redrum, red rum!

    3. Scott says:

      I can pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time.

  31. Joe Public says:

    You people are too much…. This really made my day reading some of these comments… a bunch of comedians… lol….. ;)

  32. Sybrsean says:

    wlel tihs is athoenr itnetrseig hmaun bairn tcirk. You can plobrably raed tihs bcuesae the biran olny tkes itno auoncct the fsrit and lsat lttres wehn ridneag.

    1. Marbran says:

      Actually, the first and last letters are the primer letters, and the brain compares the remaining letters to choose the correct word. But context is very important as well. Without conext, many words would be lost in translation.

      Togrhuh and Togrohuh could be interpreted the same without context.

  33. cm says:

    i’m curious to know if she is actually reversing the phonemes (so that a backward recording would sound like the forward message) or reversing the letters, and converting them to words.

    1. Troy says:

      Reversing the letters and saying the words like that. Anyone can do this. This news report is fit only for the bottom of a virtual bird cage as virtual bird cage droppings protection.

    2. Gerck says:

      I can speak backwards fluently and can say without a doubt that she is merely flipping the words around and reading it. If you played this backwards it would be mostly gibberish. The true art to speaking backwards is to do it phonetically so that you can play it back in reverse and it’s legible, albeit a little weird. This is how I do it and a friend of mine can as well. Convenient when you don’t want people nearby knowing what you are talking about. An example of this is the word “the” it becomes “uth” or even “I” which you would kinda say like “ya.” Good article.

  34. D Sarnoff Farnsworth says:

    A few years ago, the ABC TV show “That’s Incredible!” featured a guy whose recorded voice that sounds like gibberish is intelligible when played in reverse.

    Now, THAT’S back-talking.

  35. Eric says:

    You can say any English word to my wife and she can recite to you, quickly and without hesitation, all of the letters in that word in alphabetical order. Any word that she can spell, anyway, and she’s a very good speller.

    It has no practical application whatsoever, but it’s pretty cool.

    1. SketchCat says:

      I’m sure it has a lot of practical applications. Short term memory + Categorizing + Critical thinking + etc.

  36. Mark Simpson says:

    !looc s’tahT

  37. TSA-NOMO says:

    O bama does this every time he opens his mouth, so why are the “experts” not so puzzled about that? I mean, every time he talks, the exact opposite of what is spoken, is the truth, and the “experts” have a word for this, it’s called “pathological”.

    1. Rational Db8 says:

      Yea verily, brother!! Of course, in the literary world, it’s called Orwellian, and Obama has that down to a tee.

  38. Me says:

    Yoda, she is.

  39. Ben Dover says:

    DYSLEXICS UNTIE!

    1. Mot says:

      Ben, did you hear the one about the dyslexic atheist who just couldn’t come around to believing in Dog?

      1. shempus says:

        ffffttfftfffft dummmm crashhh (post-punch line drum lick)

  40. Rob says:

    My twin brother and I did this intentionally in the 6th grade so we could talk without grown-ups understanding us. But we decided to speak phonetically. Our goal was, if someone recorded it and played it back, it would be intelligible. This girl is flipping the spelling, but if you played it back, it wouldn’t sound like the actual words. I’m not sure it’s a brain function as much as it is a learned skill. We just grew out of it because the novelty had worn off.

    1. Ben Dover says:

      Learned skill.

  41. Da Poots says:

    Congratulations on your silly talking, I guess. Not sure what you’re going to do with your amazing talent, but neato. Question, though – why is this news?

    1. CoachHouser says:

      The same question I ask about 90% of what’s on CNN, Fox, etc.

  42. gerard pawling says:

    Is she good at doing the JUMBLE?

  43. Charles Dearing says:

    That’s nothing! My ex-wife could instantly TWIST my words!

    1. Rational Db8 says:

      I’m sure spouses of either sex lay claim to that! Meanwhile, some would say their spouse’s or ex’s just instantly make their words disappear, as if the words were never spoken.

  44. Brad says:

    @Ed………..LOL.

  45. Mr. Polen says:

    In the 1950-60’s there was a “Professor Backwards” comedian who made a great living doing this. He was on numerous variety shows.

  46. Eric says:

    Yeah “little person” from Twin Peaks could do this too. Not news, really.

  47. Laura says:

    My next-door neighbor could do that as a kid. I ran into her a few years ago and she can no longer do it. She said it stopped around age 25 or so. Odd, that.

  48. koloij says:

    My wife remembers every thing I ever said.

    1. dohboy says:

      LOL

  49. Bruce G says:

    Yeah, but can she speak pig Latin?

  50. Rob says:

    I used to be able to do this as a kid too. I lost the ability when I got older. No idea why. I thought I was the only one,hah!

  51. Kim Taylor says:

    My son has been able to instantly alphabetize words. He started doing this in high school.

    1. BOB says:

      I learned the alphabet much earlier than high school

      1. JudyChop says:

        I waited till college to learn the alphabet.

      2. SketchCat says:

        lol

      3. Gummint Skooler says:

        What’s the alphabet?

    2. Sharon says:

      Kim, I understand what you meant.

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