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Savant syndrome: unusual cognitive abilities

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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 lthe existence of special or increased capacities which offers us clues about the functioning of the human nervous system and how abnormal brain function does not have to be synonymous with deficiencies. The Savant syndrome, also know as Sage Syndrome, is a clear example of it.

What is Savant Syndrome?

Savant Syndrome is a broad concept that encompasses a number of cognitive symptoms anomalies that are related to prodigious mental abilities. It may seem too ambiguous a definition, but the truth is that the so-called savant can display different types of enhanced cognitive faculties: from a quasi-photographic memory to the ability to write sentences backwards at high speed or perform complex mathematical calculations intuitively without prior training in math.

However, the areas in which people with savantism They stand out, they tend to be more or less well defined, and they do not have to involve only processes related to logical and rational thought. For example, it is perfectly possible that the Savant Syndrome expresses itself through a spontaneous ability to create artistic pieces.

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Although Savant Syndrome serves as a catch-all category to label many very different cases, almost all have in It is common to involve automatic and intuitive psychological processes, which do not cost the person with practice or effort. savantism.

The case of Kim Peek

One of the most famous cases of Savantism is that of Kim peek, which we already talked about in a previous article. Peek was able to memorize practically everything, including every page of the books he read. However, it is not the only case of a person with Savant Syndrome, and many of them have a similar ability to make everything that everything is recorded in memories.

Some problems

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

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 are constantly fighting for the resources necessary 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 lies beyond the autonomous functioning of the brain. Specifically, in the social fit of these people. Having a series of faculties that can be labeled under the idea of ​​Savant Syndrome is, in part, perceiving the world in a very different way from how other people do.

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

What is the origin of Savantism?

The quick answer to this question is that it is not known. 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 these two halves work together.

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

Bibliographic references:

  • Corrigan, N. (2012). Toward a better understanding of the savant brain. Comprehensive psychiatry, 53 (6), pp. 706 - 717.
  • Howlin, P. (2012). Understanding savant skills in autism. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 54 (6), pp. 484 - 484.
  • Treffert, D. (2014). Savant Syndrome: Realities, Myths and Misconceptions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44 (3), pp. 564 - 571.
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