Acquired Savant Syndrome: Anyone Has Superpowers
Everyone has some aspect of life in which they excel, but what if you woke up one morning and had an innate understanding of difficult mathematical calculations or a sudden talent for playing a musical instrument?
This may seem like the idea of a science fiction book, but in reality, it’s a proven phenomenon called “Acquired Savant Syndrome,” and it may offer patients remarkable talents. Subjects who have this condition can also give other people amazing powers.
How Does One Come to Have Savant Syndrome?
People with autism or the autistic variety known as Asperger’s syndrome are sometimes referred to as “savants.” It’s not uncommon for people on the autism spectrum to have a knack for things like music, painting, or mathematics that don’t make any sense to them at all.
John Langdon Down, who was responsible for the discovery of Down syndrome, is credited with having first used the phrase “idiot savant.” Originating from the French words stupid and savoir, which both mean “to know,”
It was a term that was not intended to be insulting and referred to a person who had a low IQ but remarkable skills or abilities, such as in mathematics. Soon after, the label “autistic savant” began to be used instead; however, in actuality, only around half of all savants are autistic.
Savant is a term that is often used to denote malfunction in one region of the brain that is paralleled by some paradoxical activity in another portion; this is what Dr. Darold Treffert, a renowned researcher, refers to as an “island of genius.”
When discussing the subject, it is impossible not to bring up the film Rain Man, which depicted the life of Kim Peek, a mega-savant who suffered from FG syndrome. Most people have heard tales about the extraordinary abilities that savants hold, and one cannot bring up the subject without mentioning the film.
Peek had a difficult time taking care of himself and functioning as an adult, yet he could read two pages from a book in only three seconds and remember all he read.
In most cases, autistic savants lack the cognitive capacity to understand abstract concepts. Because of their literal approach to seeing the world, they are unable to grasp concepts such as irony, sarcasm, subtlety, and colloquialisms (slang).
Their brains put together discrete bits of knowledge to produce a coherent whole, and they struggle to contextualize ideas in a manner that is not linear.
Those who have researched savant syndrome are of the opinion that it may be traced back to injury to the central nervous system of the left brain, which is the region of the brain that is accountable for language and reasoning.
In order to make up for the missing connections, the right brain, which is responsible for the formation of higher memory structures, works overtime.
This results in an excessive growth of some sensory functions as well as highly developed skills associated with the lower memory structure, which is the area of memory responsible for the formation of habits.
It has been hypothesized that around one person in every million has savant syndrome. On the other hand, the probability is closer to one in ten for those who have autism.
It is also often associated with problems of the central nervous system (CNS), which may be present from birth or emerge later in life as a result of disease or injury.
The Genius with a Brain Injury
Mattress salesman Jason Padgett lived in Tacoma, Washington, and his life consisted mostly of getting drunk and pursuing various women.
In all honesty, he was a little vain, devoting the majority of his time to going out with friends and being in shape—until one night, when he was severely assaulted after being ambushed outside of a karaoke club.
He was left with a severe concussion, internal damage, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It goes without saying that the assault altered the course of his life.
But shortly after that, Padgett began to experience some additional weird side effects that at first could not be classified as either good or bad.
He said that his eyesight had altered and that instead of seeing everything moving fluidly in front of him, he started to view life as a series of isolated frames, similar to the way a movie lags when it is played.
According to Padgett, quickly moving items result in frames that are dragged out for a longer period of time, while frames for slowly moving objects look closer together.
According to him, everything seemed pixelated, much as it would on a computer display with a poor resolution. He seemed to have some kind of strange digital vision.
Padgett discovered a condition known as synesthesia, which may be defined as the activation of one sensory route resulting in automatic and involuntary feelings in another sensory pathway.
He suddenly became aware of mathematical equations in every aspect of his life, from the profound to the everyday.
However, he had problems putting what he was seeing into words, so he started to study mathematics in order to contextualize the new viewpoint on life that he had gained.
He was saying that he could see components of the geometric tangent lines and the Pythagorean theorem dissecting any movement as he was strolling through a park.
As a consequence of this, he routinely drew very intricate pictures of Pi. He said that this was a cathartic outlet for the images that were always barraging him.
Padgett’s case is only one of many such reported situations in which a brain injury led to the manifestation of savant qualities in the patient.
The concept of the “acquired savant” continues to confound the few academics who are attempting to understand the processes at play; nonetheless, it does provide the interesting thought that this ability could be dormant in all of us.
The Talented Amateurs Who Got Lucky
During a break from school, a college lady went skiing and found herself on a double-black diamond trail that was littered with moguls and had flat light that made it impossible to judge depth. In spite of her better judgment, she decided to give the path a go, but she ended up losing control, falling, and knocking herself unconscious in the process.
Even after realizing that she had damaged her helmet and most likely dislocated her shoulder, she proceeded to ski for the remainder of the day.
This was the case despite the fact that she had just come to In fact, she had a mild concussion in addition to a broken collarbone, which caused her to have headaches and visual issues for many weeks.
As time went on, however, she came to the realization that, much like turning the pages of a book, she was able to recall every last minute detail of every single location that she had ever visited.
Her exceptional memory was exclusively applicable to architectural blueprints, which is indicative of one of the primary domains in which savants thrive (the others being music, painting, calendar calculation, and memorizing).
She claims that she has not yet put her newly learned expertise to use, but that she is now mulling over the possibility of switching careers into one that involves design work.
When Tony Cicoria, an orthopedic physician, was at a family reunion in upstate New York in 1994, he decided to contact his mother from a payphone instead of utilizing his cell phone.
Lightning hit the booth just as he was hanging up the phone, propelling him forward until he landed on his back outside of the structure.
Following a short out-of-body experience in which he felt himself accelerating upward while seeing all of the highlights and lowlights of his life pass before him, he reported being tugged back into his body and being brought back to the agony that he was experiencing in his physical form.
After having therapy for concerns relating to his memory as well as temporary impairments in his motor skills, he returned to his day-to-day existence with nothing out of the norm occurring right away.
But after a few weeks, Cicoria developed an overwhelming desire to listen to traditional music played on the piano.
Before he wanted to teach himself how to read music and play it himself, he had a sudden interest in Chopin and Vladimir Ashkenazy and started listening to their music.
After he started dreaming of musical compositions, he had to get himself out of bed to attempt to jot them down.
He came to the realization that he had been granted a new life with a talent that he was obligated to develop, and as a result, he committed the next 12 years of his life to training himself to play the piano and compose music.
He had a spiritual awakening and developed an unhealthy fixation with near-death experiences that used electricity. In addition to that, Nikola Tesla began to captivate him.
His previous musical tastes consisted primarily of rock and roll; yet, now, Cicoria is a superb pianist and composer who performs concerts to sold-out crowds and has records released. This is a radical departure from his earlier musical inclinations.
Bringing Out the Savant That Lies Dormant
These documented cases of “acquired savant syndrome” have prompted scientists to investigate whether or not these skills are latent in all of us.
Is it feasible to activate a system in our brain that gives us access to a level of information processing and creative capacity that can only be described as being on a par with that of superhumans?
One study put this theory to the test by artificially activating a region of the brain called the left anterior temporal lobe, also known as the LATL, which the researchers believed would be responsible for this kind of mental capacity.
The researchers hypothesized that an abnormal malfunction in the LATL would cause the right brain to overcompensate, which would result in a rivalry between the two hemispheres of the brain.
The researchers asked healthy volunteers to sketch animals and faces from memory before, during, and immediately after a 45-minute session of low-frequency magnetic stimulation (r-TMS).
This was done using low-frequency magnetic stimulation (LFMS), another name for r-TMS. Two patients served as the control group and received sham treatments.
They discovered that four of the nine participants had significant shifts in the manner in which they drew their drawings, and many of them reported heightened awareness of their surroundings after receiving therapy.
After forty-five minutes, several patients indicated that they were back to normal, and one patient remarked that he could not identify the drawing that he had produced, despite the fact that he had seen himself draw it.
Following the completion of their rTMS treatments, the participants were given a second test that evaluated their ability to estimate large numbers of things.
After receiving therapy, ten of the twelve individuals showed an improvement in their capacity to make an accurate prediction about the number of discrete components.
This reflected the capacity exhibited by savants in addition to other mathematical phenomena like calculating the days on a calendar.
The unrestricted availability of raw, less processed information that our brains normally bundle with holistic labels or assessments is what scientists believe to be the cause of this phenomenon.
The results of these tests could demonstrate that these capabilities are dormant in all of our brains and that we really have the ability to reach higher levels of awareness.
But is it possible that there is a method to access this creative and hyper-intelligent state without sacrificing the whole of one of our cognitive functions?
It’s possible that the old adage that we only utilize 10% of our brains at any one moment is based on some degree of reality.