Savant syndrome

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Savant syndrome
Synonyms Autistic savant
Specialty Psychiatry

Savant syndrome is a condition in which a person demonstrates one or more profound and prodigious capacities or abilities far in excess of what would be considered normal, yet often also has significant deficits in other areas of brain processing.[1][2][3] People with savant syndrome may have neurodevelopmental disorders, notably autism spectrum disorders (in which case they are often referred to as autistic savants), or brain injuries. The most dramatic examples of savant syndrome occur in individuals who score very low on IQ tests, while demonstrating exceptional skills or brilliance in specific areas, such as rapid calculation (hypercalculia), art, memory, or musical ability.[4][5][6][7] Although termed a syndrome, it is not recognized as a mental disorder nor as part of a mental disorder in medical manuals such as the ICD-10 or the DSM-5.[medical citation needed]

Another form of savant syndrome is acquired savant syndrome, in which a person acquires prodigious capabilities or skills following dementia, a head injury or concussion, epilepsy, or other brain disturbances. This syndrome is more rare, with a study by Darold Treffert in 2010 showing that in a registry of 319 known savants, only 32 had acquired savant syndrome.[8][unreliable medical source?]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Savant skills are usually found in one or more of five major areas: art, memory, arithmetic, musical abilities, and spatial skills.[1] The most common kind of savants are calendrical savants,[9][10] "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.[9]

Approximately half of savants are autistic; the other half often have some form of central nervous system injury or disease.[1] It is estimated that 10% of those with autism have some form of savant abilities.[1][11][12]

Mechanism[edit]

Psychological[edit]

No widely accepted cognitive theory explains savants' combination of talent and deficit.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15] Also, the attention to detail of savants is a consequence of enhanced perception or sensory hypersensitivity in these unique individuals.[15][16] 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.[17]

Neurological[edit]

Savant syndrome results from damage to the left anterior temporal lobe, an area of the brain key in processing sensory input, recognizing objects and forming visual memories.[citation needed] Savant syndrome has been artificially replicated using transcranial magnetic stimulation to temporarily disable this area of the brain.[18]

Epidemiology[edit]

There are no objectively definitive statistics about how many people have savant skills. The estimates range from "exceedingly rare"[19] to one in ten people with autism having savant skills in varying degrees.[1] 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".[20] As many as 50 cases of sudden or acquired savant syndrome have been reported.[21][22]

Males with savant syndrome outnumber females by roughly 6:1,[23] slightly higher than the sex ratio disparity for autism spectrum disorders of 4.3:1.[24]

History[edit]

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 for 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.[1][19]

Notable cases[edit]

Case studies[edit]

Calendrical savants[edit]

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 in a few seconds or even a tenth of a second, on a limited range of decades or certain millennia.[10][third-party source needed] These savants are mostly autistic.[citation needed] The rarity of human calendar calculators is possibly due to the lack of motivation to develop such skills among the general population.[29] Calendrical savants, on the other hand, may not be prone to invest in socially engaging skills.[29]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Treffert, D. A. (2009). "The savant syndrome: An extraordinary condition A synopsis: Past, present, future". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1351–7. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0326. PMC 2677584Freely accessible. PMID 19528017. 
  2. ^ Miller, LK (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. 
  3. ^ Bolte, S (2004). "Comparing the intelligence profiles of savant and nonsavant individuals with autistic disorder". Intelligence. 32 (2): 121–131. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2003.11.002. 
  4. ^ Psychology in Action Eighth Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (2007), p. 314. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
  5. ^ Bonnel A.; Mottron L.; Peretz I.; Trudel M.; Gallun E.; Bonnel A.-M. (2003). "Enhanced pitch sensitivity in individuals with autism: A signal detection analysis" (PDF). Cognitive Neuroscience. 5 (2): 226–235. 
  6. ^ McMahon J. A. (2002). "An explanation for normal and anomalous drawing ability and some implications for research on perception and imagery". Visual Arts Research. 28 (55): 38–52. 
  7. ^ Pring L.; Hermelin B. (2002). "Numbers and letters: Exploring an autistic savant's unpractised ability". Neurocase. 8 (4): 330–337. doi:10.1093/neucas/8.4.330. PMID 12221146. 
  8. ^ Treffert, Darold A. (August 2014). "Accidental Genius". Scientific American. 
  9. ^ a b Saloviita, T.; Ruusila, L.; Ruusila, U. (Aug 2000). "Incidence of Savant Syndrome in Finland". Percept Mot Skills. 91 (1): 120–2. doi:10.2466/pms.2000.91.1.120. PMID 11011882. 
  10. ^ a b Kennedy DP, Squire LR (2007). "An analysis of calendar performance in two autistic calendar savants". Learn Mem. 14 (8): 533–8. doi:10.1101/lm.653607. PMC 1951792Freely accessible. PMID 17686947. 
  11. ^ Darold A. Treffert, MD. "The Autistic Savant". Wisconsin Medical Society. 
  12. ^ "Savant Syndrome Statistics". Health Research Funding. 2014-07-12. 
  13. ^ Pring, Linda (2005). "Savant talent". Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology. 47 (7): 500–503. doi:10.1017/S0012162205000976. 
  14. ^ Happe, F.; Vital, P. (2009). "What aspects of autism predispose to talent?". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1369–1375. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0332. PMC 2677590Freely accessible. PMID 19528019. Lay summaryThe Economist (April 16, 2009). 
  15. ^ a b Baron-Cohen, S.; Ashwin, E.; Ashwin, C.; Tavassoli, T.; Chakrabarti, B. (2009). "Talent in autism: Hyper-systemizing, hyper-attention to detail and sensory hypersensitivity". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1377–83. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0337. PMC 2677592Freely accessible. PMID 19528020. 
  16. ^ Mottron, L.; Dawson, M.; Soulieres, I. (2009). "Enhanced perception in savant syndrome: Patterns, structure and creativity". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1385–1391. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0333. PMC 2677591Freely accessible. PMID 19528021. 
  17. ^ Snyder, A. (2009). "Explaining and inducing savant skills: Privileged access to lower level, less-processed information". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1399–1405. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0290. PMC 2677578Freely accessible. PMID 19528023. Lay summaryThe Economist (April 16, 2009). 
  18. ^ Snyder A (2009). "Explaining and inducing savant skills: privileged access to lower level, less-processed information". Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 364 (1522): 1399–405. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0290. PMC 2677578Freely accessible. PMID 19528023. 
  19. ^ a b http://www.psy.dmu.ac.uk/drhiles/Savant%20Syndrome.htm[full citation needed]
  20. ^ Howlin, P.; Goode, S.; Hutton, J.; Rutter, M. (2009). "Savant skills in autism: Psychometric approaches and parental reports". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 364 (1522): 1359–1367. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0328. PMC 2677586Freely accessible. PMID 19528018. Lay summaryThe Economist (April 16, 2009). 
  21. ^ Yant-Kinney, Monica (2012-08-20). "An artist is born after car crash". The Inquirer. Philadelphia. Retrieved 2012-11-24. 
  22. ^ "'A ski accident left me with advanced mental abilities': US woman tells her extraordinary story". Daily Telegraph. 17 April 2015. 
  23. ^ Treffert, Darold. A Visual Feast
  24. ^ Newschaffer CJ, et al. (2007). "The epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders" (PDF). Annu Rev Public Health. 28: 235–58. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.144007. PMID 17367287. 
  25. ^ "Stroke of Genius: How Derek Amato Became a Musical Savant". NPR. 2016-02-23. Retrieved 2017-04-23. 
  26. ^ "Savant Temple Grandin coming to Fond du Lac". 
  27. ^ Lewis, Tanya (2014-05-12). "A man became a math wiz after suffering brain injuries. Researchers think they know why". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-23. 
  28. ^ Badcock, Christopher (2009). The Imprinted Brain: How Genes Set the Balance Between Autism and Psychosis. London: Jessica Kingsley. p. 29. ISBN 9781849050234. 
  29. ^ a b Cowan R, Frith C (2009). "Do calendrical savants use calculation to answer date questions? A functional magnetic resonance imaging study". Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 364 (1522): 1417–24. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0323. PMC 2677581Freely accessible. PMID 19528025. 

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