Allan Snyder

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Allan Whitenack Snyder
PAWS Headshot.jpg
Born Philadelphia
Residence Sydney, Australia
Alma mater University of London (DSc), University College London (PhD), Harvard (MS), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (SM), Pennsylvania State University (BS), Central High School Philadelphia (BA).
Awards 1996 Harrie Massey Medal of the British Institutes of Physics, 1997 International Australia Prize, 2001 Marconi Prize, 2001 Clifford Paterson Prize, Royal Society
Scientific career
Fields Mind Sciences, Visual Neurobiology, Communications and Optical Physics
Institutions Director, Centre for the Mind, University of Sydney

Allan Whitenack Snyder is the director of the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney, Australia where he also holds the 150th Anniversary Chair of Science and the Mind. He is a co-founder of Emotiv Systems and winner of the International Australia Prize in 1997 and the Marconi Prize in 2001 for his contributions to optical physics.

Allan is also the Creator and Chairman of the What Makes a Champion? forum, an official Olympic cultural event first held at the Sydney 2000, then Beijing 2008 and forthcoming London 2012 Olympic Games. Nelson Mandela and John Howard opened the 2000 event. Tony Blair and Kevin Rudd opened the 2008 Beijing event[citation needed].

Snyder's research career began in optical physics and he has published several important papers and books in this field[citation needed]. More recently, he has begun to work on mind sciences.

Snyder has appeared in several television programs demonstrating how transcranial magnetic stimulation to the left temporal lobe can induce savant-like skills in healthy people. For example, these studies show that after TMS, a person can draw better or count the number of dots on a screen very fast.[1]

Savant hypothesis[edit]

Snyder is interested in understanding savants, how the savant brain perceives and interprets the world, the neurological and subjective correlates of the savant brain, and how to activate or at least promote savant level brain functions in non-autistic, healthy individuals.[citation needed] Even something as simple as seeing, he explains, requires phenomenally complex information processing. When a person looks at an object, for example, the brain immediately estimates an object's distance by calculating the subtle differences between the two images on each retina (computers programmed to do this require extreme memory and speed)[citation needed]. During the process of face recognition, the brain analyzes countless details, such as the texture of skin and the shape of the eyes, jawbone, and lips. The vast majority of people are simply unaware of these calculations due to the brains' information filtering processes[citation needed]. In savants, says Snyder, the top layer of mental processing —conceptual thinking, making logical deductions— is somehow deactivated. His working hypothesis is that once this layer is inactivate, one can access a startling capacity for recalling the most minute detail or for performing lightning-quick calculations. Snyder's theory has a conclusion of its own: He believes it may be possible someday to create technologies that will allow any non-autistic person to access these abilities.[citation needed]

'Imagine if I could temporarily give you a child's look at the world,' he said.[2]


In December 2001 he received the Marconi Prize in New York City.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1990 and is the recipient of their 2001 Clifford Paterson Prize.

Previously, he was a Guggenheim Fellow at Yale University’s School of Medicine and a Royal Society Research Fellow at the Physiology Laboratories of Cambridge University. He is a graduate of Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University College London.


Snyder has a DSc from the University of London, a PhD from University College (1969), London, an MS from Harvard University (1967), an SM from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1965) and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University (1963), University Park.

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