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Savant syndrome

  1. Sep 18, 2016 #1
    Wikipedia states that "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.", but if the area of the brain which processes sensory input get damaged how does the syndrome work? Such as musical savants are music geniuses, playing multiple instruments beautifully, so doesn't their sensory input need to be even more enhanced? How does damage to this lobe of the brain result in such a drastic change?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 18, 2016 #2


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    Don't know about this syndrome, but:

    The brain processes inputs in multiple channels. There is often cross talk between the different channels. There is usually not a single processing step, in a single location, upon which all subsequent processing relies. Taking out of one brain area will not necessarily completely shut down to flow of information. Other areas may have similar or complementary information which can be widely used in downstream regions.

    Or as Buckaroo Bonzai said (a bit over stated, but...): "even though there may be normal variation, when you get right down to it, this far inside the head, it all looks the same. {pause} No, no, no, no. Don't tug on that. You never know what it might be attached to."
  4. Sep 18, 2016 #3
    Thank you!
    The syndrome is a condition in which a person displays prodigious capabilities, they often have a neurological disorder such as autism. I'm particularly interested in music savants, these are people who literally over night (if the syndrome is acquired and not inherent), acquire amazing musical capabilities. A person had no idea how to play a musical instrument before, might suddenly experience the urge to play and is capable to play a musical instrument just as well (though usually better!) than a person who has years of training in music! I came across this syndrome in one of Oliver Sacks's books, so I was wondering what exactly causes it, but articles on the internet did not help me understand much about the condition.
  5. Sep 18, 2016 #4


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    You know syndromes are often a collection of similar symptoms with potentially unrelated causes.
    It seems unlikely to me that such a thing affecting a variety of different sensory-autism problems would all track back to a single brain area in all cases. It might be singles areas, but in different places in different individuals.

    As I recall, several of the problems that Sacks wrote about were from unusual viral infections that may have killed (or otherwise messed up) some neurons in particular places. Responses to a virus could vary among different people.
    Other potential causes:
    developmental aberrations (with normal genetics)
    injury/operation (like the virus, but more crude)
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