Savant syndrome, also known as “sage syndrome,” is an organic condition. It consists of an alteration of the cerebral hemispheres. In this way, Savants develop extraordinary mental abilities that some might call “superpowers”.
In general, this syndrome comes from birth. Affected individuals are born with atypical brain function. To be more precise, the involved structures are the cerebral hemispheres. In the right hemisphere there is usually exacerbated activity, while in the left there is little functioning.
The first to give a description of this pathology was the doctor Benjamin Rush. In the closing years of the 18th century, Rush was dealing with a rather peculiar case that would have called his attention; a man with superhuman calculating abilities. Since then, many cases have been described.
History of Savant syndrome
Multiple cases of Savant syndrome have been described throughout history. Some people with these special abilities have even inspired famous characters in Hollywood blockbusters. We will go through a list with some of the most popular cases.
1. The case of Kim Peek
Without a doubt, this is the most famous case. Kim Peek was the person who inspired the creation of Raymond Babbitt, the famous character played by actor Dustin Hoffman. Peek was able to recall literally every page of the many books he had read. Also, he could read two different pages at the same time.
Kim Peek’s memory seemed limitless. He not only memorized the pages of books, but also the routes on any map he had in front of him. Furthermore, he was able to know all the roads and highways in the United Statesas if it were a GPS.
Despite her privileged memory, what impressed researchers the most were the limitations displayed by Kim Peek. For example, the patient was unable to dress himself or have a fluent conversation with other people.
The case of the British Daniel Tammet is another of the best known. Tammet’s chief feat is that he recited the 22,514 digits that make up the number Pi from memory. In this way, at only 25 years of age, she will achieve worldwide fame in 2004.
3. Orlando Serrel
Serrell is known for remember all the changes in the weather since the day a baseball hit you in the head. In this sense, it is classified as an “acquired essay”.
Signs of Savant syndrome
First of all you need to know how to recognize the two fundamental signs of the wise man syndrome. The first of these, without a doubt, is the underdeveloped mental abilities. This can be observed through their extraordinary demonstrations for calculus or other similar activities.
On the other hand, we have that people with this syndrome are present obvious motor limitations. In particular, regarding gross motor skills. They are clumsy in activities such as dressing, walking, or modulating speech. Now we will see a list with other signs that must be taken into account:
- Mathematics. Mathematical calculations are one of the mental skills that are enhanced in Savant syndrome. This ability to perform complex operations in the mind is not only amazing but also very useful.
- Calendar brain. Another of the most striking features of this syndrome is the ability to memorize and remember the exact dates. They can also tell about all the events that took place on a specific date, in great detail.
- Artistic skills. It is logical to think that people with Savant syndrome are distinguished within the range of artistic expressions. Indeed, they can become great artists. For example, in music, painting and the plastic arts they reach a superhuman level of performance.
- Spatial calculation. This sign is evident when the person is able to calculate large distances with unambiguous precision and without the need to use any measuring instruments.
Why does this syndrome occur?
As we have already mentioned, the main cause is organic and is due in particular to a disproportion in the functionality of the cerebral hemispheres. In any case, the circumstances causing atypical functioning in brain structures can be different.
For example, in Kim Peek’s case, the origin was macrocephaly (children born with a larger than normal skull). This condition was comorbid with an agenesis of the corpus callosum, causing their cerebral hemispheres to become unconnected.
How common is it?
Savant syndrome is more common in people who are on the autism spectrum. However, not all patients with this condition have it. In short, it is a rare disease. The reason is that it is not often that the cerebral hemispheres are isolated and can develop individually.
There are also cases of the acquired type. It occurs after being in an accident, when patients have a head injury that ends up being the cause. It should be noted that this circumstance is even more rare than cases of birth.
Is it always positive?
We might come to think that the skills provided by the exposed syndrome are always positive. However, we must bear in mind that excesses involve some conflict. In these cases, patients depend heavily on their caregivers to function in daily life.
The ideal is to understand it it is a pathology. While it is true that extraordinary mental abilities resemble those of fictional characters, they have nothing to do with superpowers. In any case, memory and calculation are human capabilities. But when they work above average they are great.
The life projection that people with a condition related to Savant syndrome have is quite unique. Although, due to their status as wise men, it seems easy to make a living, the reality is that there are few jobs where they can be functional.
They can often be seen in works related to art, given that they can count on the support of their caregivers for any necessary management. In fact, some of the cases cited were dedicated to showing off their skills.
Ranges and spectra of Savant syndrome
As with autism, there are different ranges in sage syndrome too. A mild range can be considered when people are functional in everyday life. In these cases, mental abilities are not that amazingwell, despite being above average.
If we appeal to an example of a mild Savant, we can name the Swiss Gottfried mind. This character was outstanding because of his great talent for drawing cats. What is known about Mind is that since he was a child he was alone and thanks to his ability he was nicknamed the “Rafael of cats”.
Are there treatments for this syndrome?
There is no cure for Savant syndrome. However, psychological therapies focused on social skills training are effective. Treatment should seek to ensure that patients are able to integrate into society with as few limitations as possible.
Within this framework, people are sought to be able to initiate and maintain conversations. This is why it highlights aspects such as introducing yourself, listening, asking questions, being empathetic, as well as being able to thank and compliment.
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