Savant Syndrome; Acquiring Special Skills From a Condition
Yesterday, I found myself entertaining a whimsical notion – the idea of being struck by a seemingly ordinary object, like a ball, and miraculously gaining extraordinary abilities akin to Kyle from the movie Kyle XY. However, in the midst of this fanciful daydream, I recalled a fascinating reality: there exists a genuine condition where individuals who previously lacked certain skills suddenly acquire remarkable talents in specific areas of their lives, even including enhanced intelligence. This intriguing phenomenon is known as Savant Syndrome, and it is the subject of today's discussion.
While I was thinking far on how to get superpowers such as ability to remember everything that happens on a daily in details, I came across the story of Orlando Serrell who was diagnosed with savant syndrome after being hit by a baseball.
Savant Syndrome is a rare condition that endows individuals with exceptional abilities in distinct domains, such as music, mathematics, art, and mechanical skills. These individuals possess unique memories that often leave others envious, sometimes without realizing the underlying condition. Savant Syndrome can manifest as a result of various factors, including dementia, autism spectrum disorder, and brain injuries.
To Understand how this works, let's me explain the brain. The brain is made up of the Brainstem, Cerebrum, and the Cerebellum. The brain stem connects the cerebrum and the cerebellum to the spinal cord. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, made up of the right and the left hemisphere while the cerebellum is found beneath the cerebrum. In the cerebrum, there are four lobes which are the Temporal lobe, occipital lobe, parietal lobe, and frontal lobe.
With the temporal lobe functioning in auditory processing as well as learning new languages, the temporal lobe which consist of the hippocampus responsible for learning and memory. The Occipital lobe is responsible for visual sensation, the Parietal lobe is responsible for feeling and general sensation while the frontal lobe is for emotions, memory, judging, and problem solving. The brain is very complicated and it requires all parts to be able to work perfectly. It is believed that the left hemisphere will solve analytical task, the right hemisphere is associated with creativity (Actually, it is more complicated than it looks but that is the best way I can explain that function for now).
In the case of Orlando, an injury to his left hemisphere prompted compensatory efforts by the right hemisphere. When both hemispheres collaborate, they forge stronger neurological connections. However, if one part of the brain is impaired, other regions may activate to compensate for the damage, leading to the formation of new connections that effectively rewire the brain.
Notably, individuals with autism spectrum disorder often struggle with complex social interactions, display atypical emotional responses, and exhibit narrow interests. Remarkably, approximately 10% of people with autism spectrum disorder also experience Savant Syndrome. For these individuals, the damage typically occurs in the left hemisphere of the brain. This damage, in turn, enables the brain to process sensory input and cognitive functions in novel ways, fostering the development of entirely new neural networks.
Savant Syndrome is a captivating phenomenon that sheds light on the remarkable adaptability of the human brain even when there one part of it is injured or damaged. It underscores the brain's incredible capacity to compensate for damage and reorganize its functions, resulting in extraordinary talents that can emerge seemingly out of nowhere.