It is known by the name of “Sage Syndrome” or “Savant Syndrome”. It was described for the first time in 1789, after the doctor Benjamin Rush discovered that one of his patients was able to calculate the age of people in a few seconds. Since then it has been studied insistently, but science has not been able to explain it.
This syndrome occurs when some people with mental illness or brain damage develop extraordinary abilities in one or more areas. In many cases, these abilities are activated after a brain injury.
It is an extremely rare condition and so far only 50 people have been officially diagnosed with this syndrome. A figure that is disturbing anyway. Much more if one takes into account that 50% of Savants are autistic.
The only thing that has been established so far is that these types of people develop their abilities thanks to the fact that they use their cerebral hemispheres in a different way than an average human being would. The fields in which the new skills are manifested have also been identified:
• Calculation of dates. Some of them can memorize complete calendars and remember characteristic data for each day of the year.
• Mathematical calculation. Many can perform complex math operations instantly and with great precision. Some are capable of dividing up to one hundred decimal places in fractions of a second.
• Prodigious memory. They are capable of storing a huge amount of data, although they present difficulties when using them.
• Mechanical and spatial skills. Some can measure objects or distances very accurately, without the use of any instrument. They easily memorize maps and directions.
• In some cases they acquire the ability to learn several languages, measure time without any device. They also develop artistic skills.
One of the most famous cases was that of Kim Peek, the person who served as inspiration for the making of the movie ” Rain Man.” In real life, Peek was born with macrocephaly and permanent brain damage. Still, he was able to memorize everything in an amazing way. He remembered 98% of the 12 thousand books he had read.
It could also read two pages simultaneously, one with each eye, and it took just 8 seconds to do so. However, his IQ was lower than that of a “normal” person and he was barely able to button his shirt.
Richard Wawro had mental retardation and autism traits . Upon entering school, he began to paint with great skill. One of the works that he produced, when he was just 12 years old, was classified as a masterpiece. Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko described his painting as “incredible, with the precision of a mechanic and the vision of a poet.” He had more than 100 solo exhibitions and sold more than a thousand works around the world.
Derek Amato had an accident that caused him a concussion. After recovering, he discovered that he had acquired an unusual ability for music. Everything seems to indicate that his brain was reorganized in such a way that he activated musical memory. Others think that his sensory perception has changed and that this allows him to listen in a different way.
These are just some of the examples that demonstrate the extraordinary power that is contained in the marriage formed by chance and the human brain.