The Savant Syndrome

The Savant Syndrome

The Savant Syndrome

intelligence

Leslie Lemke

Leslie Lemke (born January 31, 1.952) is a blind American autistic savant who is most notable for his work as a musician.

Leslie Lemke was born prematurely in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1.952. 

At birth, he was diagnosed with glaucoma, cerebral palsy, and brain damage. 

Doctors were forced to remove his eyes. His birth mother gave him up for adoption, and May Lemke, a nurse, adopted him when he was six months old. 

To feed him, may had to push food down his throat.

It was a year before Leslie could chew food on his own. 

It took seven years of constant care before Leslie showed any progress. 

During this time, he made no sounds or movements and showed no emotions. 

He was 12 before he first learned to stand, and he was 15 before he learned to walk.

When he was 16, May found Leslie playing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto no. 1 during the middle of the night. 

He had recently heard the piece on television. Leslie was soon playing all styles of music, from ragtime to classical.

His adoptive mother encouraged his talent for the piano. 

By 1.980, Leslie was regularly giving concerts in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. 

His newfound fame gained him invitations to various television shows such as CBC's Man Alive (hosted by Roy Bonisteel), CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, and That's Incredible!. 

In 1.983, ABC broadcast The Woman Who Willed a Miracle, a drama about Leslie and his adoptive mother. 

It stars Cloris Leachman as May Lemke. Leslie is also the subject of Fred Small's song, "Leslie is Different."

Leslie toured the United States, Scandinavia, and Japan and gave free concerts on various occasions. 

He was quite animated when he played.

May Lemke developed Alzheimer's disease and died on November 6, 1.993.




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Stephen Wiltshire

Stephen Wiltshire MBE, (born 24 April 1.974) is a British architectural artist of West Indian ancestry who has been diagnosed with autism.

He is known for his ability to draw from memory a landscape after seeing it just once. 

His work has received worldwide popularity.

Early life and education

Wiltshire was born in London, England, in 1.974 to West Indian parents.

Wiltshire was mute when young. 

At age three, he was diagnosed as autistic. 

The same year, his father died in a motorcycle accident.

At age five, Stephen was sent to Queensmill School in London where he expressed interest in drawing. 

He began to communicate through his art. 

His teachers encouraged his drawing, and with their aid Wiltshire learned to speak at age five.

At the age of eight, he started drawing imaginary post-earthquake cityscapes and cars. 

When he was ten, Wiltshire drew a sequence of drawings of London landmarks, one for each letter, that he called a "London Alphabet".

In 1.987, Wiltshire was part of the BBC programme The Foolish Wise Ones.

Drawings, a collection of his works, was published that same year.

Between 1.995 and his graduation in 1.998, Wiltshire attended the City and Guilds of London Art School in Kennington, Lambeth, South London.

Career

Wiltshire can look at a target once and then draw an accurate and detailed picture of it. 

He once drew the whole of central London after a helicopter trip above it.

He also draws imaginary scenes, for example, St. Paul's Cathedral surrounded by flames.

Wiltshire's early books include Drawings (1.987), Cities (1.989), Floating Cities (1.991), and Stephen Wiltshire's American Dream (1.993). 

His third book, Floating Cities (Michael Joseph, 1.991), was number one on the Sunday Times bestseller list.

In 2.003, a retrospective of his work was held in the Orleans House gallery in Twickenham, London.

In May 2.005 Stephen produced his longest ever panoramic memory drawing of Tokyo on a 10-foot-long (3.0 m) canvas within seven days following a short helicopter ride over the city. 

Since then he has drawn Rome, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Madrid, Dubai, Jerusalem and London on giant canvasses. 

When Wiltshire took the helicopter ride over Rome, he drew it in such great detail that he drew the exact number of columns in the Pantheon.

In October 2.009 Stephen completed the last work in the series of panoramas, an 18-foot (5.5 m) memory drawing of his "spiritual home", New York City.

Following a 20-minute helicopter ride over the city he sketched the view of New Jersey, Manhattan, the Financial District, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn over five days at the Pratt Institute college of art and design in New York City.

In 2.010, he made a series of drawings of Sydney, and visited Bermuda National Gallery where the sale of his drawing of Hamilton broke auction records. 

In June 2.010, Christie's auctioned off an iconic oil painting of his "Times Square at Night".

Wiltshire started a tour of China in September 2.010, with a first project taking him to Shanghai.

A 2.011 project in New York City involved Wiltshire's creation of a 250 feet (76 m) long panoramic memory drawing of New York which is now displayed on a giant billboard at JFK Airport. 

It is a part of a global advertising campaign for the Swiss bank UBS that carries the theme "We will not rest", The New York Times reported.

Recognition

Stephen's work has been the subject of many TV documentaries. 

Renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks writes about him in the chapter "Prodigies" in his book An Anthropologist on Mars.

In 2.006, Stephen Wiltshire was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to art. 

In September 2.006 Stephen opened his permanent gallery in the Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, London.

On 15 February 2.008, ABC News named him Person of the Week.

In his first intimate interview with The Independent in 2.009 he revealed his dreams, aspirations, idols and biggest regrets.

In July 2.009 he acted as ambassador of the Children's Art Day in the United Kingdom.

In 2.011, Stephen Wiltshire has been made an honorary Fellow of the Society of Architectural Illustration (SAI).







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Laurence Kim Peek

Laurence Kim Peek (November 11, 1.951 – December 19, 2.009 - R.I.P.) was an American savant. 

Known as a "megasavant", he had an eidetic memory, but also social difficulties, possibly resulting from a developmental disability related to congenital brain abnormalities. 

He was the inspiration for the character of Raymond Babbitt, played by Dustin Hoffman, in the movie Rain Man. Unlike Babbitt, Peek had FG syndrome.

Early life

Peek was born in Salt Lake City, Utah with macrocephaly, damage to the cerebellum, and agenesis of the corpus callosum, a condition in which the bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain is missing; in Peek's case, secondary connectors such as the anterior commissure were also missing.

There is speculation that his neurons made unusual connections due to the absence of a corpus callosum, which resulted in an increased memory capacity.

According to Peek's father, Frank Peek, Kim was able to memorize things from the age of 16–20 months. 

He read books, memorized them, and then placed them upside down on the shelf to show that he had finished reading them, a practice he maintained. 

He read a book in about an hour, and remembered almost everything he had read, memorizing vast amounts of information in subjects ranging from history and literature, geography, and numbers to sports, music, and dates. 

According to an article in the Times newspaper, he could recall the content of at least 12,000 books from memory.

Peek lived in Murray, Utah.

Peek did not walk until the age of four and then in a sidelong manner.

He could not button up his shirt and had difficulty with other ordinary motor skills, presumably due to his damaged cerebellum, which normally coordinates motor activities. In psychological testing, Peek scored below average on general IQ tests.

Rain Man

In 1.984, screenwriter Barry Morrow met Peek in Arlington, Texas; the result of the meeting was the 1.988 movie Rain Man. 

The character of Raymond Babbitt, although inspired by Peek, was portrayed as having autism. 

Dustin Hoffman, who played Babbitt, met Peek and other savants to get an understanding of their nature and to play the role accurately and methodically. 

The movie caused a number of requests for appearances, which increased Peek's self-confidence. 

Barry Morrow gave Kim his Oscar statuette to carry with him and show at these appearances; it has since been referred to as the "Most Loved Oscar Statue" as it has been held by more people than any other. 

Kim also enjoyed approaching strangers and showing them his talent for calendar calculations by telling them on which day of the week they were born and what news items were on the front page of major newspapers. 

Peek also appeared on television. 

He travelled with his father, who took care of him and performed many motor tasks that Peek found difficult.

Life after Rain Man

Unlike many savants, Peek had shown increasing social skills, perhaps due to the attention that had come with being perceived as the "real Rain Man". 

His father says that his sense of humor had been emerging since 2.004 or so. 

Also, he had developed well beyond the stage of being a mere repository of vast amounts of information; his skills at associating information he remembered were at least one of the signs of creativity. 

He displayed difficulty with abstractions such as interpreting the meanings of proverbs or metaphorical terms of speech.

Although never a musical prodigy, Peek's musical abilities as an adult received more notice when he started to study the piano. 

He apparently remembered music he had heard decades before, and could play it on the piano to the extent permitted by his limited physical dexterity. 

He was able to give a running commentary as he played, for example, comparing a piece to other music he had heard. 

Listening to recordings, he could distinguish which instruments played which part and was adept at guessing the composers of new music by comparing the work to the many thousands of samples in his memory.

Scientific investigation

In 2.004, scientists at the Center for Bioinformatics Space Life Sciences at the NASA Ames Research Center examined Peek with a series of tests including computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. 

The intent was to create a three-dimensional view of his brain structure and to compare the images to MRI scans done in 1.988. 

These were the first tentative approaches in using non-invasive technology to further investigate Kim's savant abilities.

A 2.008 study concluded that Peek probably had FG syndrome, a rare genetic syndrome linked to the X chromosome which causes physical anomalies such as hypotonia (low muscle tone) and macrocephaly (abnormally large head).

Death

Peek died of a heart attack on December 19, 2.009.



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Matt Savage

Matthew "Matt" Savage (born 1.992) is an American autistic savant musician. 

Born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, he is the son of Diane and Lawrence "Larry" Savage.

Background

Matt was a precocious infant who walked early and learned to read by age 18 months.

He was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, a form of autism, at age three.

Matt did not like any noises or music during his early childhood.

At age six, Matt taught himself to read piano music.

He studied classical piano for less than a year before discovering jazz, which became his main focus. 

He began studying at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts in the fall of 1.999. 

He continued his classical studies as well. He and his younger sister, Rebecca,  are both home schooled.

Among Matt's talents are hyperlexia[1]and perfect pitch.

Coupled with his extremely high intelligence, these abilities have allowed him to achieve other distinctions as well, such as winning a statewide geography bee.

Despite his young age and his autism, and even without formal instruction in musical composition, Matt is an accomplished musician and composer. 

He has released several albums, both as a solo performer and as part of the Matt Savage Trio. 

By the age of 14, he had also performed with Chaka Khan and other popular singers. 

Matt's compositions tend toward the technical, but they are still very approachable and often humorous.

Matt has received many awards, including being signed in 2.003 to Bösendorfer pianos. 

He is the only child to be so recognized in the company's 175-year history.

Matt has toured the world, performing for heads of state and others, and appearing on numerous television and radio programs such as Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Today Show, and All Things Considered. 

In 2.006, at age 14, he was featured on a CNN report about the human brain, in which he was defined as a prodigious savant, as opposed to the other types of savants.

Matt has also appeared in several documentaries about savants.

In 2.007, he played with Scottish folk songwriter/singer Al Stewart, on piano.

In 2.009, Matt enrolled at Berklee to continue advancing his musical career. 

The following year, in November, he is preparing to release his ninth CD.




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Derek Paravicini

Derek Paravicini (born 26 July 1.979) is a blind English autistic savant and a musical prodigy. 

He lives in Surrey.

Biography

Paravicini was born extremely prematurely, at 25 weeks.

His blindness was caused by oxygen therapy given during his time in a neonatal intensive care unit. 

This also affected his developing brain, resulting in his severe learning disability.

He also has autism.

He has absolute pitch and can play a piece of music after hearing it once. 

He began playing the piano by the age of two when his nanny gave him an old keyboard. 

His parents arranged for him to attend the Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London. 

On his introductory visit to the school, in the music room he broke free from his parents, then headed straight for a piano being played, and then pushed the player, Adam Ockelford, aside to take over. 

Ockelford encouraged him and arranged first weekly and then daily lessons.

Aged seven, he gave his first concert in Tooting Leisure Centre in South London.

In 1.989, at the age of nine, Paravicini had his first major public concert at the Barbican Hall in London when he played with the Royal Philharmonic Pops Orchestra. 

In that year he appeared on Wogan and was the main subject of a documentary called Musical Savants. 

Aged ten he was presented with a Barnardo's Children's Champion Award by Diana, Princess of Wales.

More opportunities followed, including playing at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club.[4] Paravicini is a resident at the Royal National Institute of the Blind.

He was featured on an episode of Channel 5's Extraordinary People in an episode titled "The Musical Genius", which showed his journey to Las Vegas to play in a charity concert with another savant, Rex Lewis-Clack. 

He was interviewed twice by Lesley Stahl for 60 Minutes.

In 2.009 he was one of the subjects of the NOVA series' episode, "Musical Minds", featuring neurologist Oliver Sacks, on PBS.

He was featured a second time by 60 Minutes on 14 March 2.010.

In 2.009 he performed for the former Chancellor Alistair Darling, when he unexpectedly played Big Spender.

On 13 May 2.010 Paravicini made legal history when the United Kingdom's last remaining secret court was opened for the first time to discuss his future care. 

The Court of Protection, which controls the future of adults incapable of managing their own affairs, appointed Paravicini's family to look after his welfare and commercial future. 

Until that legal decision was made the Official Solicitor from the Ministry of Justice had been looking after his affairs, rather than his divorced parents, Nicolas Paravicini and Mary Ann Parker Bowles.

On August 26, 2.010 Derek was featured on the History Channel's Stan Lee's Superhumans. 

On the show Derek was subjected to testing which verified his savantism and superhuman musical ability. 

After improvising at two pianos with the composer Matthew King, for a radio programme made for BBC Radio, Derek and Matthew collaborated on a new Piano Concerto entitled Blue which was first performed with the Orchestra of St John's in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London in September 2.011. 

This is believed to be the first concerto ever composed for someone with learning disabilities.

Family

Paravicini is the son of Nicolas Paravicini and Mary Ann Parker Bowles, the former sister-in-law of Camilla Parker Bowles, who later, by her marriage to the Prince of Wales, became the Duchess of Cornwall.

He is a great-grandson of author William Somerset Maugham. 

His stepmother is Susan Rose "Sukie" Phipps (born 1.941), who was brought up by Fitzroy Maclean, one of the models for James Bond. His cousins include the food writer Tom Parker Bowles and the gallery manager Laura Lopes.

Paravicini's official biography, In the Key of Genius by Adam Ockelford, was published in the UK by Hutchinson (ISBN 978-0091796129) on May 3, 2.007.





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Savant syndrome

Savant syndrome (pronounced /səˈvɑːnt/), sometimes referred to as savantism, is a rare condition in which people with developmental disorders have one or more areas of expertise, ability, or brilliance that are in contrast with the individual's overall limitations.

Though it is even rarer than the savant condition itself, some savants have no apparent abnormalities other than their unique abilities. 

This does not mean that these abilities weren't triggered by a brain dysfunction of some sort but does temper the theory that all savants are disabled and that some sort of trade-off is required.

Characteristics

According to Treffert, something that almost all savants have in common is a prodigious memory of a special type, a memory that he describes as "very deep, but exceedingly narrow". 

It is wide in the sense that they can recall but have a hard time putting it to use (for more on this see section on savants in Advanced Memory).

Also, many savants are found to have superior artistic or musical ability.

Causes

Savant-like skills may be latent in everyone and have been simulated in unaffected people by directing low-frequency magnetic pulses into the brain's left hemisphere, which is thought to deactivate this dominant region (in at least 90% of right-handed people) and allow the less dominant right hemisphere to take over, allowing for processing of savant-like tasks.

Mechanism

Savant syndrome is poorly understood. 

No widely accepted cognitive theory explains the combination of talent and deficit found in savants.

It has been suggested that individuals with autism are biased towards detail-focused processing and that this cognitive style predisposes both individuals with and without autism to savant talents.

Another hypothesis is that hyper-systemizing predisposes people to show talent, where 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, and that the attention to detail shown by many savants is a consequence of enhanced perception or sensory hypersensitivity in individuals with autism.

It has also been suggested that savants operate by directly accessing low-level, less-processed information that exists in all human brains but is normally not available to conscious awareness.

Epidemiology

According to Treffert :

One in ten people with autism have savant skills.

50% of savants have autism; the other 50% often have psychological disorders or mental illnesses.

Prodigious savants have very significant disorder and disability, see Richard Wawro, Henriett Seth F., Jonathan Lerman.

A 2.009 British study of 137 parents with autistic children found that 28% believed their offspring met the criteria for a savant skill, that is, a skill or power "at a level that would be unusual even for normal people".

History :

According to Treffert, the term idiot savant (French for "learned idiot" or "knowledgeable idiot") was first used to describe the condition in 1.887 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 mental retardation. 

The term autistic savant was also used as a diagnosis for this disorder. 

Like idiot savant, the term autistic savant also became looked at as a misnomer because only one-half of those who were diagnosed at the time with savant syndrome had autism. 

Upon realization of the need for accuracy of diagnosis and dignity towards the individual, the term savant syndrome became widely accepted terminology.

Society and culture

The 1.988 fictional film Rain Man was loosely based on Kim Peek among others.

Prodigious savants

A prodigious savant is someone whose skill level would qualify him or her as a prodigy, or exceptional talent, even in the absence of a cognitive disability. 

Prodigious savants are those individuals whose abilities would be considered phenomenal or genius even in a person without any limitations or special diagnosis of impairment. 

The most common trait of these prodigious savants is their seemingly limitless mnemonic skills, with many having eidetic or photographic memories. 

Indeed, prodigious savants are extremely rare, with fewer than one hundred noted in more than a century of literature on the subject. 

Treffert, the leading researcher in the study of savant syndrome, estimates that fewer than fifty or so such individuals are believed to be alive in the world today. 

The website of the Wisconsin Medical Society lists 29 savant profiles.

Darold Treffert is past-president of the society.

Notable savants

The following are well-known people with savant syndrome, noted for their talent in their identified fields :

Kim Peek, mnemonist, speed reader and calculator, although not autistic.

Mark Boerebach, Australian internet dj, subject of the documentary Rainman goes to Rockwiz.

Alonzo Clemons, American clay sculptor.

Tony DeBlois, blind American musician.

Leslie Lemke, blind American musician.

Jonathan Lerman, American artist.

Thristan Mendoza, Filipino marimba prodigy.

Gottfried Mind, Swiss artist known as the "Raphael of Cats".

Derek Paravicini, blind British musician.

Anthony Torrone, American Christian writer.

Gilles Tréhin, artist, author.

James Henry Pullen, gifted British carpenter.

Matt Savage, American autistic jazz prodigy.

Henriett Seth F., Hungarian autistic savant, poet, writer and artist.

Stephen Wiltshire, British architectural artist.

Richard Wawro, British artist.

George and Charles Finn, calendar calculator twins.

Florence 'Flo' and Katherine 'Kay' Lyman, calendar calculator twins. Featured in a documentary produced by TV network TLC entitled Twin Savants: Flo & Kay.

Derek Amato, American pianist and singer.

Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, and consultant to the livestock industry in animal behavior.

Jason D. Padgett, American Mathematical Artist.

Daniel Tammet, British author, public speaker, high-functioning autistic savant, and synesthete.



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