|Other names||Autistic savant, idiot savant (historical,misnomer)|
|Kim Peek, the savant who was the inspiration for the main character in the movie Rain Man|
|Symptoms||General mental disability with certain abilities far in excess of average|
|Causes||Neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism spectrum disorder, brain injury|
|Frequency||c. 1 in a million people|
Savant syndrome is a rare condition in which someone with significant mental disabilities demonstrates certain abilities far in excess of average. The skills that savants excel at are generally related to memory. This may include rapid calculation, artistic ability, map making, or musical ability. Usually, only one exceptional skill is present.
Those with the condition generally have a neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism spectrum disorder or have a brain injury. About half of cases are associated with autism, and these individuals may be known as "autistic savants". While the condition usually becomes apparent in childhood, some cases develop later in life. It is not recognized as a mental disorder within the DSM-5.
Savant syndrome is estimated to affect around one in a million people. The condition affects more males than females, at a ratio of 6:1. The first medical account of the condition was in 1783. Among those with autism, 1 in 10 to 1 in 200 have savant syndrome to some degree. It is estimated that there are fewer than a hundred savants with extraordinary skills currently living.
Signs and symptoms
Savant skills are usually found in one or more of five major areas: art, memory, arithmetic, musical abilities, and spatial skills. The most common kinds of savants are calendrical savants, "human calendars" who can calculate the day of the week for any given date with speed and accuracy, or recall personal memories from any given date. Advanced memory is the key "superpower" in savant abilities.
Approximately half of savants are autistic; the other half often have some form of central nervous system injury or disease. It is estimated that up to 10% of those with autism have some form of savant abilities.
A calendrical savant (or calendar savant) is someone who – despite having an intellectual disability – can name the day of the week of a date, or vice versa, on a limited range of decades or certain millennia. The rarity of human calendar calculators is possibly due to the lack of motivation to develop such skills among the general population, although mathematicians have developed formulas that allow them to obtain similar skills. Calendrical savants, on the other hand, may not be prone to invest in socially engaging skills.
No widely accepted cognitive theory explains savants' combination of talent and deficit. It has been suggested that individuals with autism are biased towards detail-focused processing and that this cognitive style predisposes individuals either with or without autism to savant talents. Another hypothesis is that savants hyper-systemize, thereby giving an impression of talent. Hyper-systemizing is an extreme state in the empathizing–systemizing theory that classifies people based on their skills in empathizing with others versus systemizing facts about the external world. Also, the attention to detail of savants is a consequence of enhanced perception or sensory hypersensitivity in these unique individuals. It has also been confirmed that some savants operate by directly accessing low-level, less-processed information that exists in all human brains that is not normally available to conscious awareness.
In some cases, savant syndrome can be induced following severe head trauma to the left anterior temporal lobe. Savant syndrome has been artificially replicated using transcranial magnetic stimulation to temporarily disable this area of the brain.
There are no objectively definitive statistics about how many people have savant skills. The estimates range from "exceedingly rare" to one in ten people with autism having savant skills in varying degrees. A 2009 British study of 137 parents of autistic children found that 28% believe their children met the criteria for a savant skill, defined as a skill or power "at a level that would be unusual even for 'normal' people". As many as 50 cases of sudden or acquired savant syndrome have been reported.
The term idiot savant (French for "learned idiot") was first used to describe the condition in 1887 by John Langdon Down, who is known for his description of Down syndrome. The term idiot savant was later described as a misnomer because not all reported cases fit the definition of idiot, originally used for a person with a very severe intellectual disability. The term autistic savant was also used as a description of the disorder. Like idiot savant, the term came to be considered a misnomer because only half of those who were diagnosed with savant syndrome were autistic. Upon realization of the need for accuracy of diagnosis and dignity towards the individual, the term savant syndrome became widely accepted terminology.
Society and culture
- Daniel Tammet, British author and polyglot
- Derek Paravicini, British blind musical prodigy and pianist
- Henriett Seth F., Hungarian autistic writer and artist
- Kim Peek, American "megasavant"
- Leslie Lemke, American musician
- Rex Lewis-Clack, American pianist and musical savant
- Matt Savage, American musician
- Stephen Wiltshire, British architectural artist
- Temple Grandin, American professor of animal science
- Tom Wiggins, American blind pianist and composer
- Tommy McHugh, British artist and poet
- Kodi Lee, 2019 America's Got Talent winner (musician)
- Alonzo Clemons, American acquired savant sculptor
- Anthony Cicoria, American acquired savant pianist and medical doctor
- Derek Amato, American composer and pianist, he has developed savant syndrome and synesthesia
- Orlando Serrell, American acquired savant
- Jason Padgett, American mathematician, acquired after being hit in the back of the head while at a bar
- Raymond Babbitt, savant with autism in the 1988 film Rain Man (inspired by Kim Peek)
- Park Shi-on, savant with autism in the 2013 South Korean medical drama Good Doctor
- Shaun Murphy, savant with autism in the 2017 U.S. medical drama The Good Doctor
- Kazan, savant with autism in the 1997 film Cube
- Jeong Jae-hee, savant with autism in the 2021 South Korean psychological drama Mouse
- Tomo Kunagisa, calendrical savant in the zaregoto light novel series written by Nisio isin
- Autistic art
- Child prodigy
- Creativity and mental illness
- Mental calculator
- Twice exceptional
- Treffert DA (May 2009). "The savant syndrome: an extraordinary condition. A synopsis: past, present, future". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1351–7. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0326. PMC 2677584. PMID 19528017.
- Miller LK (January 1999). "The savant syndrome: intellectual impairment and exceptional skill". Psychological Bulletin. 125 (1): 31–46. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.125.1.31. PMID 9990844.
- Hughes JR (2012). "The savant syndrome and its possible relationship to epilepsy". Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 724: 332–43. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-0653-2_25. ISBN 978-1-4614-0652-5. PMID 22411254.
- Hyltenstam, Kenneth (2016). Advanced Proficiency and Exceptional Ability in Second Languages. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 258. ISBN 9781614515173. Archived from the original on 2020-09-25. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- Sperry, Len (2015). Mental Health and Mental Disorders: An Encyclopedia of Conditions, Treatments, and Well-Being [3 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of Conditions, Treatments, and Well-Being. ABC-CLIO. p. 969. ISBN 9781440803833. Archived from the original on 2020-09-25. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- Saloviita T, Ruusila L, Ruusila U (August 2000). "Incidence of Savant Syndrome in Finland". Perceptual and Motor Skills. 91 (1): 120–2. doi:10.2466/pms.2000.91.1.120. PMID 11011882. S2CID 20306664.
- Kennedy DP, Squire LR (August 2007). "An analysis of calendar performance in two autistic calendar savants". Learning & Memory. 14 (8): 533–8. doi:10.1101/lm.653607. PMC 1951792. PMID 17686947.
- Treffert DA. "The Autistic Savant". Wisconsin Medical Society. Archived from the original on 2019-07-13. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
- "Savant Syndrome Statistics". Health Research Funding. 2014-07-12. Archived from the original on 2020-09-25. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
- Cowan, Richard; Carney, Daniel P. J. (June 2006). "Calendrical savants: Exceptionality and Practice". Cognition. 100 (2): B1–B9. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2005.08.001. PMID 16157326. S2CID 34912923. Archived from the original on 2021-08-29. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
- Cowan R, Frith C (May 2009). "Do calendrical savants use calculation to answer date questions? A functional magnetic resonance imaging study". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1417–24. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0323. PMC 2677581. PMID 19528025.
- Pring, Linda (2005). "Savant talent" (PDF). Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 47 (7): 500–503. doi:10.1017/S0012162205000976. PMID 15991873. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-09-25. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- Happé F, Vital P (May 2009). "What aspects of autism predispose to talent?". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1369–75. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0332. PMC 2677590. PMID 19528019. Archived from the original on April 19, 2009. Lay summary – The Economist (April 16, 2009).
- Baron-Cohen S, Ashwin E, Ashwin C, Tavassoli T, Chakrabarti B (May 2009). "Talent in autism: hyper-systemizing, hyper-attention to detail and sensory hypersensitivity". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1377–83. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0337. PMC 2677592. PMID 19528020.
- Mottron L, Dawson M, Soulières I (May 2009). "Enhanced perception in savant syndrome: patterns, structure and creativity". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1385–91. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0333. PMC 2677591. PMID 19528021.
- Snyder A (May 2009). "Explaining and inducing savant skills: privileged access to lower level, less-processed information". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1399–405. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0290. PMC 2677578. PMID 19528023. Archived from the original on April 19, 2009. Lay summary – The Economist (April 16, 2009).
- Snyder A (May 2009). "Explaining and inducing savant skills: privileged access to lower level, less-processed information". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1399–405. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0290. PMC 2677578. PMID 19528023.
- Hiles, Dave (2001). "Savant Syndrome". De Montfort University. Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2012-10-06.
- Howlin P, Goode S, Hutton J, Rutter M (May 2009). "Savant skills in autism: psychometric approaches and parental reports". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1359–67. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0328. PMC 2677586. PMID 19528018. Archived from the original on April 19, 2009. Lay summary – The Economist (April 16, 2009).
- Yant-Kinney M (2012-08-20). "An artist is born after car crash". The Inquirer. Philadelphia. Archived from the original on 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
- "'A ski accident left me with advanced mental abilities': US woman tells her extraordinary story". Daily Telegraph. 17 April 2015. Archived from the original on 25 September 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
- Treffert, Darold. A Visual Feast Archived 2020-09-25 at the Wayback Machine
- Newschaffer CJ, Croen LA, Daniels J, Giarelli E, Grether JK, Levy SE, Mandell DS, Miller LA, Pinto-Martin J, Reaven J, Reynolds AM, Rice CE, Schendel D, Windham GC (2007). "The epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders". Annual Review of Public Health. 28: 235–58. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.144007. PMID 17367287.
- McGowan, Kat (March 13, 2013). Exploring Temple Grandin's Brain. Discover Magazine (April 2013). Archived from the original on September 25, 2020. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
- Badcock, Christopher (2009). The Imprinted Brain: How Genes Set the Balance Between Autism and Psychosis. London: Jessica Kingsley. p. 29. ISBN 9781849050234. Archived from the original on 2021-08-18. Retrieved 2020-10-28.