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Savant Syndrome, People with Superhuman Cognitive Abilities

“They are people with absolutely exceptional capabilities: the “savants”.”


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The mechanisms that make the brain work are not only revealed through deficits caused by injuries.

In some cases, it is the existence of special or augmented capabilities that gives us clues about the functioning of the human nervous system and how an abnormal functioning of the brain does not have to be synonymous with deficiencies. Savant Syndrome, also known as Sage Syndrome, is a clear example of this.

What is The Savant Syndrome?

Savant Syndrome is a broad concept that encompasses a series of anomalous cognitive symptoms that are related to prodigious mental abilities. It may seem like a too ambiguous definition, but the truth is that the so-called savant can display different types of enhanced cognitive faculties: from an almost photographic memory to the ability to write sentences backwards at high speed or to do complex mathematical calculations in an intuitive way without having previous training in mathematics.

However, the areas in which people with savantism stand tend to be more or less well defined, and need not involve only processes related to logical and rational thinking. For example, it is perfectly possible that Savant Syndrome is expressed through a spontaneous ability to create artistic pieces.

Although the Savant Syndrome serves as a catchall category to label many very different cases, almost all have in common the fact of involving automatic and intuitive psychological processes, which do not cost the person with savantism any practice or effort.

The case of Kim Peek

One of the most famous cases of savantism is that of Kim Peek, which we discussed in a previous article. Peek was able to memorize practically everything, including all the pages of the books he read. However, it is not the only case of a person presenting Savant Syndrome, and many of them have a similar capacity to make everything that everything is recorded in memories.

Some problems

Although Sage Syndrome refers to increased cognitive abilities, in many cases it is associated with deficits in other aspects, such as poor social skills or speech problems, and some researchers believe that it is related to the autistic spectrum or the Syndrome. of Asperger.

This is consistent with a conception of the brain as a set of limited resources that must be well managed. If many areas of the brain constantly dispute the resources needed to function and there is a decompensation in the way of distributing them, it is not unreasonable that some capacities grow at the expense of others.

However, part of the reasons why presenting savantism does not have to be all advantages is beyond the autonomous functioning of the brain. Specifically, in the social fit of these people. Having a series of faculties that can be labeled with the idea of ​​Savant Syndrome is, in part, to perceive the world in a very different way than other people do.

Therefore, if the two parties are not sufficiently sensitized to put themselves in the place of the other and make life in common easier, the person with savantism may suffer the consequences of marginalization or other barriers difficult to save.

What is the origin of savantism?

The quick answer to this question is that you do not know. However, there are indications that many of these cases can be explained by a functional asymmetry between the two cerebral hemispheres, or something that alters the way of working together of these two halves.

In particular, it is believed that the expansion of some functional areas of the right hemisphere that appears to compensate for some deficiencies in the left hemisphere could be the cause of such a varied set of symptoms. However there is still enough for us to have the full picture of a neurological phenomenon as complex as this one.

Savant Syndrome, People with Superhuman Cognitive Abilities
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