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Surprising Yet True! This Disease Actually Makes You Smart!

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 17 August 2022, Updated on - 04 October 2022

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Many of us have binged watched and loved the character of Dr Shaun Murphy portrayed in the Netflix show "The Good Doctor". In this major hit, Dr Murphy is not only on the autism spectrum but also has Savant syndrome, which was believed to be one of the major reasons for his excellence. But what is Savant syndrome?

 

The genius syndrome?

Savant syndrome is a rare condition wherein people with developmental disorders like autism, have one or more amazing talents or abilities. While this phenomenon is exceedingly rare, there have been multiple well-documented cases. Savant skills typically coexist with different neurodevelopmental conditions such as autistic disorder, intellectual disability, genetic (chromosomal) disorders, brain injury, or malformations.

 

According to estimates, approximately 50% of Savant syndrome cases are from the autistic population while the remaining 50% are from the population with central nervous system (CNS) injuries and developmental disabilities. Around 1 in every 10 people with an autistic disorder has certain Savant skills. However, one must know that not all people with autism are Savants and not all Savants are autistic.

 

Categorisation of Savant Syndrome Skills

Savant skills can be diversified over a broad spectrum. The special skills associated with Savant syndrome can be put into three different categories:

  • Splinter Skills: In this category, a Savant possesses specific skills that contrast his/her overall level of functioning. These skills include behaviour like obsessive preoccupation with and accurate memorization of sports trivia and music, maps, historical facts, licence plate numbers, or obscure items like vacuum cleaner motor sounds.
     
  • Talented Savants: In this category, a Savant displays a high level of talent. Their musical, mathematical, artistic or other special skills are way more prominent and honed.
     
  • Prodigious Savants: This is a much rarer form of Savant syndrome. In this case, the abilities or skills exhibited by an individual are not only spectacular in contrast to his/her disability but would also be spectacular in comparison to a non-disabled individual. This category of Savants is so rare that fewer than 75 prodigious Savants exist worldwide currently. 

savant syndrome

 

What Are The Typical Savant Skills?

Savant skills develop within a fairly constant range with all of them typically involving exceptional feats of memory. Usually, each individual with Savant syndrome has a specific skill. However, in some cases, multiple skills can simultaneously co-exist in the same person. It is widely observed that the typical Savant skills are usually right hemisphere oriented i.e., artistic, concrete, non-symbolic and directly perceived. Following are some of the most commonly observed skills in those with Savant syndrome:

  • Calendar CalculationCalendar calculating skills are very common amongst those with Savant syndrome. This skill enables an individual to identify the day of the week on which a particular date falls in any year. 
     
  • Musical Ability: Musical ability is another relatively common Savant skill. Savants with this skill usually have perfect pitch and are capable of playing an entire piece of music after hearing it just once. In some documented cases, Savants have also shown outstanding composing skills.
     
  • Artistic Ability: Artistic talents, like exceptional drawing, painting, and sculpture skills, are also observed quite frequently in Savants. 
     
  • Lightning Calculating SkillsSuperb mathematical skills like lightning calculation are another typical Savant ability. It enables an individual to compute multi-digit prime numbers and instantaneously calculate square roots, and multiplications.
     
  • Other SkillsMany other skills are occasionally seen in Savants like exquisite sensory discrimination in touch or smell, language skills such as multilingual acquisition ability, perfect appreciation of the passage of time without access to a clock and exceptional knowledge in specific fields including neurophysiology, history, statistics or navigation.

smart person

 

While rare, Savant syndrome is not a disease or a disorder. It is a condition wherein exceptional skills are grafted onto a basic brain dysfunction caused by a developmental disability or another form of central nervous system disorder or disease. You can talk to an Apollo specialist to learn more about Savant syndrome.

 

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Medically reviewed by Dr Sonia Bhatt. 

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