Some of you (probably most readers) might already have known about 'Savant' (or more widely mentioned as 'Savant' syndrome). The word Savant is actually a French word meaning 'Learned'. This word has latin origin 'sapere' meaning "to be wise" . But when we say 'Savant Syndrom', it has special meaning defined in englished as follows :
- a person of learning, especially : one with detailed knowledge in some specialized field (as of science or literature) - merriam webster
- a person affected with a developmental disorder (such as autism or intellectual disability) who exhibits exceptional skill or brilliance in some limited field (such as mathematics or music)- merriam webster
- a person with a high level of knowledge or skill, especially someone who is less able in other ways - Cambridge Dictionary
If you have been interested in Savant before, these literal definition would make clear sense to you, but if you are new to this, those definition may not sound clear. Instead of trying to explain further about the definition of the term, I would just rather suggest you to watch a few video under YouTube section and you would instantly know who are Savants. If you are old enough like me and watched the movie titled 'Rain Man'. The movie title would be the best defintion for you.
What are Savants good at ?
As mentioned above, Savants exhibits 'exceptional skill in some limited fields'. What are the limited fields which Savants are extremely good at ? Followings are the list of those skills (or fields) :
- Music: This is the most common savant skill, often with abilities like perfect pitch, and the ability to play complete pieces of music after hearing them only once.
- Art: Some savants have remarkable drawing or painting abilities, often with a high level of detail and realism.
- Calendar calculating: Savants with this skill can provide the day of the week for any given date with speed and accuracy. They can often do this for dates hundreds of years in the past or future.
- Mathematics: Some savants have extraordinary mathematical abilities, such as being able to perform complex calculations in their heads very quickly, or intuitively understanding advanced mathematical concepts.
- Mechanical or spatial skills: This includes abilities like measuring precise distances without the use of tools, or being able to construct complex models or structures without plans or materials.
Characteristics and Statistics on Savants ?
Are there any other characteristics besides the specific skills that are widely known about Savant Syndrome ? Followings are some of the characteristics and statistics that are frequently mentioned in various articles or papers.
Savant syndrome is a rare and unusual condition that often occurs in the presence of severe developmental disabilities
- Statistical overview
- Approximately 10% of autistic persons exhibit savant abilities
- In a study from 2009 involving 137 autistic people, as many as 37% showed either savant skills or some form of savant ability
- Roughly 50% of those with savant syndrome have autism, and the remaining 50% have other forms of developmental disability
- Varied Manifestations of Savant Skills : Savant syndrome can manifest in different ways, with the most common form being extraordinary musical abilities. Other manifestations can include calendar-calculation, artistic, and mathematical skills
- Diverse IQ Levels and Creativity in Savants : Savants can have a wide range of IQ levels, and it is not necessarily the case that savants have a low IQ. In fact, in some instances, the IQ can be superior. Also, savants can be creative, rather than just duplicative
- Persistent and Evolving Savant Skills : In many cases, these exceptional skills do not disappear. Instead, they can improve with time and practice, sometimes evolving from simple replication of observed patterns to original, creative expression (In some cases, savant skills can emerge suddenly and then disappear just as quickly, with no clear understanding as to why they were lost.)
- Gender Difference : It is observed more frequently in males than in females. The ratio is approximately 6 males for every 1 female with the condition. However, the reason for this gender discrepancy is not fully understood. Some researchers speculate that it could be linked to the higher incidence of autism spectrum disorders in males, as many savants are also on the autism spectrum.
Are there neurological background behind Savant Syndrome ?
The neurological mechanisms underlying Savant Syndrome are not fully understood, but there are a few theories that are often mentioned as a background behind the syndrome.
- Right-Hemisphere Compensation Theory : According to this theory, Savant abilities emerge due to compensation by the right hemisphere of the brain for damage or dysfunction in the left hemisphere. This is based on the observation that savant skills often involve right-brain capacities such as pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, and artistic ability.
- Hyper-systemizing theory : According to this theory, Savants have an unusually intense focus on systems and patterns. This could explain abilities in areas such as music, mathematics, and calendar calculation, which all involve complex systems of rules and patterns
- Snyder Hypothesis (Privileged Access to Lower Level, Less-Processed Information" theory) : According to this theory, Savants have "privileged access" to raw, unprocessed perceptual data, which is typically inaccessible to conscious awareness. This could allow them to perceive and process information in ways that others can't.
Aquired Savant: The Unexpected Gifts of Brain Injuries
In general, Savant Syndrom is considered to be congenital (meaning 'present from birth'), but there are some rare cases where some person aquire the capabilities of Savants following an injury or disease affecting the brain.
Unlike congenital savants who have had their exceptional skills from early childhood (often from birth), acquired savants develop these skills later in life, typically after a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or a neurological disorder like dementia.
The skills developed by acquired savants are often in areas such as music, art, mathematics, or languages, and these individuals can show remarkable proficiency in these areas despite no previous training or exceptional skill. It's as if the brain injury unlocks a hidden capacity in their brains.
The exact mechanism that causes this phenomenon is still not completely understood. Some researchers believe that the injury might somehow alter the balance between the brain's hemispheres, perhaps inhibiting certain functions while enhancing others. Others propose the theory of "privileged access" to lower level, less-processed information, similar to what is suggested for savants in general.