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Autistic people and savants

  1. Dec 26, 2012 #1
    I know I asked a similar question a while ago but still wasn't really satisfied with the answer I got. I've been thinking about an autistic persons brain or a savants brain who are VERY VERY smart, solving complex mathematic problems as infants ect.

    Does technology exist that can tell you HOW their brains process, store and recall information compared to someone who isn't a savant?

    What is it about their brains that is different to ours? Is there any actual proof that in some way their brain is different? Or is the only answer we have is "That they just process, store and recall information differently"

    Can't just just strap some electrodes to an autistic persons brain and then to somebody's brain who isn't autistic and then give them some equations to solve and measure the activity in their brain using a CAT scanner or something :/

    I really want to just think like a savant for a day. I heard that every single thing you read, see or hear is stored in a place in your brain that you simply can't access. Although savants can access this part of their brain which in turn leads them to become severally disabled yet incredibly smart. Is this true?
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2013 #2
    I didn't see your last thread to sorry if this is a repeat.... First problem is that you're being far to general, you're almost suggesting that all autistic people have some kind of gift, that is not true, I've met hundreds of autistic people that have no 'special ability' and autisum its self is a very general problem, and no one condition is the same. To be a little crass it would be like one guy with a paper cut and another with a head cut off and saying they both cut themselves, true, but the situations are hardly comparable.

    Also you're making an assumption that the apparent 'intelligence' is directly a result of autisum. Why not ask what is different between a rocket scientists brain to a reality TV stars brain... again one is far more intelligent than the other, but are you less likely to assume there is a reason other than hard work, if so why? I know lots of not autisic people that are incredible with numbers and memory puzzles. Having said that sometimes it is just practice and 'hard work' my brother is autistic and can recite the whole of any one of about 20 or 30 disney films... does he have an amazing memory, no, you would remember all the words to the lion king if you'd watched it over 100 times (thank god for DVDs because that kid would ruin our videos lol)

    Just as a heads up, I would be very careful saying things like this on physics forums, if you heard this somewhere it's a bold enough claim that you should probably cite where you heard it, and unless it was a particularly reputable source (which it wan't) you should probably be cautious with posting it as possible fact. Further to that, the notion that we only use 10% of our brains makes for good film plots i.e. Matilda (classic) but I'd be surprised if there was any bases for this in scientific literature (I'm actually being a little cautious about knocking this back because biology is not actually my field, but I can safely say that you should be wary of any theories that involve unlocking human potential, it's mostly crazy talk)

    Also "all the things you see" and the notion of memory are a lot more complicated than you are making out, for example you field of 'perfect vision' is approximately the size of you're thumb nail held at arms length out side of that a lot of the visual information you receive is you're brain just 'filling in gaps'

    On the subject of memory and improving it some of these articles will be useful:

    In particular:


    Might be of interest... you might need to subscribe to see the full articles (which you should lol New scientist is amazing world of cutting edge science at a conceptual level) but if not you can read the previews and then google the interesting bits.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  4. Jan 23, 2013 #3
    Well, there are many different types of intelligence. It is certainly a difficult thing to gauge. There are hundreds of different ways in which a savant could be "smart."

    I don't believe he is suggesting that all people with autism have some sort of gift, but is more specifically referring to those with savant syndrome, and the fact that many of those with the syndrome also have some form of autism. The definition of savant syndrome includes having abilities far in excess of the norm.

    There have been claims that it is possible to detect autism itself with an MRI, which would give much more useful and in depth information regarding such things than a CT scan. This claim, however, is still in the development stage and has not produced any conclusive results at this point. It is more of an hypothesis than anything else.

    So to answer your question; It is possible that the technology required to identify the differences in the way the brains of those with autism/savant syndrome and those considered normal work may currently exist, and we simply haven't learned enough to utilize it in that function.
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