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Savant Syndrome


Most people probably already know that the right-hemisphere of the brain is responsible for our artistic skills such as music and other forms of art, spatial skills, and what we directly perceive. The left-hemisphere of the brain is responsible for our cognitive skills which is responsible for our ability to learn new skills and knowledge. The logical, analytical, and sequential skills are also influenced by the left brain.

In the dictionary, savant means a person with detailed knowledge in a specialized field or a person of learning. Hence, idiot savant or savant syndrome was taken from that word. And in this hub, I'll be using savants to connote people with savant syndrome.

What Is Savant Syndrome

Savant syndrome is a rare condition in which the person has mental disabilities but has an extraordinary talent that is connected with immense memory. It is the presence of unusual intellect or artistic abilities. The skills savants possess tend to use the right-hemisphere of the brain more than the left-hemisphere, though.

Savants can focus on a single talent and perfect it. Whether the talent is in mathematical calculation or in any other artistic skill but they don't have the ability to learn skills that is beyond the periphery of their talents. Their brain pushes them to focus all their energy into a limited skill.

It seems to us that savants acquire amazing abilities instantly. It is just that their brains tend to hyper-focus on a certain skill that normal people are unable to do. While they are unable to do what normal people can do.

Cognitive skills, logical skills, and analytical skills are absent in savants. The talent takes over the life of the person. They spend their day practicing that talent. They should practice, and they practice obsessively. It's a force within them. They are very interested and motivated in their skills. Thus they show amazing ability.

About 1 in 10 autistic patients and about 1 in 1000 patients with other mental impairments are savants. Mental impairments in this case refer to mental retardation, brain injuries, and brain diseases. This syndrome appears more in males than in females.

How to Deal With Savant Syndrome Patients

It is noted that savant skills persist within the life of the person and with continued practice, these skills increase in almost all cases. Experience had shown that trying to keep them away from their skills may prove to be detrimental for them. Savants should not be denied if they want to practice their talents. Educators of savants should assist in the functional use of their talents. Actually, when savants are encouraged with their skills, their defects tend to subside in time. Through continuous supervised training, they may develop better attention towards daily living skills, communication skills and their interaction towards other people.

Another important thing to remember about savants is that they must be praised, encouraged, and be shown acceptance by the people who gives care for them. Everyone likes approval but the emotional needs of savants are demanding.

How Savants Are Developed

When undamaged, our brain uses higher level memory that is responsible for the semantic (language learning) and declarative (understanding) capabilities. Normal people's brain uses both the left-hemisphere and the right-hemisphere. Although we use both, some people come to rely more on the left-hemisphere of the brain that gives them the capability to use logical and analytical thinking. Some people, however, may come to rely more on their right brain skills that gives them the ability to be more artistic than others.

What happens to savants is that their central nervous system are damaged from injury or disease factors making them rely on more primitive memory that is responsible for the procedural (routine) and habit capabilities. The combination of right brain skills and procedural memory produces the extraordinary skill that is savant syndrome.

The theory behind savant syndrome is that an injury in the left brain may spark right brain compensation meaning the left brain limitation is substituted by an enhanced right brain capability.

The Discovery of the Disease

The first description of savant syndrome was by Gnothi Sauton in 1783 about Jedediah Buxton who had lightning calculating abilities. But the first report was written by Benjamin Rush in 1789 when he described Thomas Fuller's ability with calendar calculating.

John Langdon Haydon Down (Nov 18, 1828 - Oct 07, 1896) had first termed the disease idiot savant in 1887. Savant syndrome, however, is now widely used. He was also the doctor who coined the term mongolism, a condition which is now called Down syndrome, which was named after him.

The Common Misconception

Some people may have misunderstood that savants are autistic. Some may use the two terms interchangeably. But that is not the case. About 1 in 10 autistic patients are savants and about 1 in 1000 savants appear in patients with mental retardation, brain injury, and adult onset dementia. All in all, they have estimated that savants appear in about 50% of the time in autistics and about 50% of the time in other forms of mental impairments.

Savant Syndrome Skills

  • Music performance, most often piano
  • Composing in the absence of performing knowledge
  • Playing multiple instruments
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Sculpting
  • Calendar calculating
  • Mathematics
  • Spatial dexterity
  • Mastery of map making
  • Direction finding
  • Able to memorize a book verbatim

It appears that savants with multiple skills are higher in savants with autism. Be noted that because savant syndrome is very rare, the above listed skills are mostly isolated cases. And that the skills they have are more exceptional than normal people.

New Findings

They have found a few frontotemporal dementia (FTD) patients who suddenly acquired savant syndrome with the onset and progression of FTD. Many of them did not have artistic abilities in the past but artistic abilities had emerged as FTD proceeded. They had acquired visual or musical skills but verbal and cognitive skills have deteriorated. Most of their works are meticulous copies of the original copy of the artwork. Like other savants, they develop obsessive preoccupation of their work.

Different kinds of accidents and hemorrhagic incidences to the head had been reported that had made the patients savants after their tragic accidents.

The Difference between Autism and Other Mental Retardation

Mental retardation is congenital, even when the baby is still in the mother's womb, doctors can already tell if the baby has mental disabilities. Autism is regarded by doctors as a developmental disability. Autism shows no signs of mental disabilities in the early years of the person. Doctors usually do not have a clue if the baby has autism. In fact, as toddlers, they appear to be normal and energetic children. Symptoms usually show up at about 5 or 6 years old, when the development of their brain suddenly stops.

What is Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)

Frontotemporal dementia is an adult onset dementia. It is called as such because it damages either the frontal or temporal lobe of the brain during its early stages. Patients of FTD might manifest different symptoms on the early stages of this disease, making it hard for doctors to diagnose them. Doctors often misdiagnose FTD as Alzheimer's disease or as a psychiatric problem. Some symptoms of FTD are verbal deterioration, decline in personal hygiene, muscle weakness, rigidity, swallowing difficulties, behavioral changes, repetitive compulsive behavior, unable to control their own movements, and other motor skills deterioration. Signs and symptoms vary depending on the portion of the brain affected. After diagnosis, the duration of the remaining life of the patient is anywhere between two to ten years.


BeatsMe (author) on February 26, 2014:

Hi Rachel, no one can know until he is clinically diagnosed as such. You'll have to let the experts diagnose him so you'll find out. Hope my answer helped and good luck. Thanks for dropping by. :)

rachel on February 25, 2014:

My 3 year old is non verbal and cant understand what is being said to him. But can spell words out, using plasic letters and put mumbers all in the correct order raging from 0 to 9, what's going on here, is there a possiblity that my child could be showing signs of being a savant.

Ralph Colyn on May 25, 2013:

Please contact me : ralph[at}Colyn.co.za



BeatsMe (author) on July 11, 2012:

lol! Sounds like a jukebox to me.

unknown on July 11, 2012:

i think i have savant syndrome.when iam hit over the head i sing songs that are being played all over the world. but when iam hit again i loose that ability.

BeatsMe (author) on June 10, 2012:

Hi Yvette, sorry to read about your predicament. Sorry also that I couldn't be much of a help to your problem. Hope you find help in online forums about savants and people with difficult situations. Best of luck. Hope you find peace soon.

yvette - johannesburg,sa on June 09, 2012:

WOW, I AM truly shocked. I have always wondered what on earth was wrong with me but I am sure now that I am a Savant. When I was about 5 years old I was swinging on a gate in Joubert Park and knocked my head on the left side seriously and my temple. I remember a terrible jerking and always wondered why I ACTED DIFFERENTLY TO other children. Always doing things differently to the others talented and intelligent but no discretion when it came to making friends - i.e. rough or decent. When I was 15 years old I had meningites and enkafilites together and went blind for 2 weeks. After I HEALED and could see again things got a lot worse, I hated my family and thought my friends and going out was everything. I matriculated without studying a notch and had no interest whatsoever in trying to do the right thing i.e. study and get married etc. Today I have 3 children from 3 different men and don't cope well with my life. I am constantly depressed, cannot handle stress and am easily angered so I tend to avoid people. I have no people judging skills and always get along best with those that rip me off at the end of the day. I am attracted to childlike, reckless men and usually fall madly in love with these sorts. I don't stay long at jobs as I get easily bored although all my employers say my skills are beyond exceptional. I don't want to be exceptional, I want to be like everyone else that can think clearly, have good judgement and make sound decisions. Please help as my life is getting worse.

BeatsMe (author) on June 03, 2012:

Dear Noah, thanks for sharing your experience. Your many talents are entertaining. It's really good that you have this many talent. Consider yourself lucky. Not many people are blessed with that. Best of luck and enjoy them. :)

noah on June 02, 2012:

i think i have this syndrome, i havnt told my parents about it or anything though. everything i do its like i had already know how to do it, and i could master anything in about a week(but i dont do anything but the thid that i am mastering, and i'm not sure why). i have mastered a lot of the talents that you have listed like drawing, sculpting, painting, and playing multiply instuments. also i learned how to play my clarinet in 6th grade, the day i got it without any lessons. in conclution, i am still not sure if i have this syndrome, please supply me with an answer.

BeatsMe (author) on November 13, 2011:

I believe so, Anna, and her talent lies in drawing. But most of the time, the person must be diagnosed as a savant by an expert before they are considered as such.

Thanks for reading and for sharing to us about your friend. :)

Emma on November 12, 2011:

My best friend, Anna, was diagnosed with autism at a young age and is 13. She can draw the most amazing pictures I've ever seen. No, not good stick figures and stuff like that. If you ask her to draw something, she'll do it in perfect proportion, shading and whatnot. I asked her if she took classes, and she told me that her parents didn't want to spend the money to get her classes. She also told me, when I asked her, that she started drawing when she was 18 months old. Is she considered a savant?

BeatsMe (author) on November 04, 2011:

Hi Vickie, thanks for sharing. Wish you and your son all the best. :)

Vickie Skidmore on November 02, 2011:

My son was been called a real estate savant in Federal Court. His brain was damaged in 1994. He cannot read, write, and has difficulty understanding the verbal or written word.

How can he buy and sell real estate if he has so many neuro deficits? We don't know. He cannot do paperwork or finances so he had people do them for him. They took advantage of him and he is now in prison. All we know is he got a tingle when he found the house he could sell.

After his injury he could also sing his songs, but he could not call me mom or tell you the names of his nose, arms, legs, mouth, and etc. when you pointed to them.

After reading numerous articles about savants and their abilities to draw, I just recently asked him to draw to try to help him relax. He had never really drawn before.

His pictures are wonderful. He like other savants sees pictures in his mind.

Your article was very good. Marcus is a rare person, most of all, but he does have the rare condition of savant syndrome. It may be more common than first realized with the number of head injuries increasing.

My son, Marcus Rosenberger. He is listed in Google.

BeatsMe (author) on September 21, 2011:

Hi Castlemans, good luck. I know you must have difficulty dealing with this kind of talent that your child has. It's not common and many people do struggle on how to deal with it. If you are looking for advice, I think you should look for experts who do know how to deal with savants and autistic children. They would know more on what to do and on how to deal with it on a daily basis. Best of luck.

Thanks for coming by and for sharing your story.

castlemans on September 20, 2011:

I am a mother of 3 autistic children. My 2 year old, although non-verbal for the most part, already at just 26 months knows all of the shapes, colors, numbers, the alphabet and has memorized every animal in every book we have shown her. She has an incredible memory that astounds her speech therapists. They struggle to find material that is is not already familiar with. The term "savant" is being tossed around in reference to her already at such a young age. I am not sure how I feel about this. I am not sure of anything really. Am I supposed to expose her to a lot of music and art? She IS very musically inclined. What I should really say is that she is motivated musically. I can get her to do almost anything if I sing to her.

BeatsMe (author) on March 31, 2011:

Hi Tony, I agree, their abilities are mind boggling. Thanks for coming by. :)

Tony McGregor from South Africa on March 31, 2011:

Fascinating subject. I have reaqd about some savants in the books by Oliver Sacks.

Thanks for sharing.

Love and peace


BeatsMe (author) on December 04, 2010:

Thanks for dropping by, Fucsia.

fucsia on December 04, 2010:

I had never heard of savant syndrome.

Thanks for the interesting information

BeatsMe (author) on September 28, 2010:

Hi Brandon, thanks for dropping by and for sharing your own experiences.

Brandon on September 27, 2010:

JB - I like you remember the same things.


Brandon on September 27, 2010:

I have just learned the term 'savant' today when speaking with one of my customers. I recalled everything that we had spoke of 2 months prior. He had said that it was odd that I could remember everything. I work with phone numbers every day and I can remember them all.

I am 26 years old now but when I was 11, I was in a car accident. I had hit my head on the side window. The left side of my head was split open and I had slipped into a coma. I was in a coma for 2 weeks. I woke up to being partially paralized.

After I got back on my feet I could recall everything from in the hospital. But I could also do math like no one else in my class. I had fallen away from this as I lost interest in doing just normal arithmatic.

I am very interested in leaning more about this incredible ability of mine. To see if there is more that I can do with it.

If anyone has any more insight on this please post the url's.

Thanks everyone!!

Wong Jia Hou on May 28, 2010:

na i know that but i really nid to know how am i going to heal my hyperactive and much more,plus my father install something to block those under age cant see the web and also many antivirus

BeatsMe (author) on May 28, 2010:

Thanks for visiting, Jia Hou. If you really are 12 years old, I'm not sure if you can join here. There are terms here that said people who join should be 18 and above. Good luck anyway.

Wong Jia Hou on May 28, 2010:

I am sry for saying such a ridiculos words on your blog,it's all because I am still 12years old.

Wong Jia Hou on May 27, 2010:

thanks for replying,now i have no worry about it.

BeatsMe (author) on May 27, 2010:

Hi Jia Hou, you don't have a savant syndrome. And being afraid is normal.

wong jia hou on May 26, 2010:

I have few problem,as you said the syndrom will focus on 1 skil,but i cant find out what is it.Another problem is,whenever i am alone,i will feel afraid of ghost,I wanted to deal with it but how?

BeatsMe (author) on May 15, 2010:

Best of luck to you, Derek.

Derek Amato on May 15, 2010:

Im delighted to read Williams personal input as to our working together! I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to share my musical experience with so many people and it has been the most humbling experience for me personally. I have made many many new friends during the last three years of my life traveling, performing, and doing all I can to absorb this most fascinating gift. As to new stuff going on. I am currently working on a new album and of recent was a mentioned topic in Dr. Darold Treffert's new book "Islands of Genius." I am also preparing for performance dates and will continue my efforts to be involved in charities that benefit the study of traumatic brain injuries! I can't thank all of you enough for taking the time to reach out to me personally with such kind emails and letters, wow! Please do feel free to contact me directly at info@derekamatomusic.com

Wishing you well,

Derek Amato

BeatsMe (author) on April 05, 2010:

Hi JB, what can I say, your condition is impressive and scary at the same time. I hope you get over your social phobia, I know it's not easy, but best of luck anyway.

JB on March 29, 2010:

I have Savant skills and have had these from being 3 years old(it's definitely genetic in my case) when I could recite stories read to me by the nursery teacher, which she told my parents about! I am now aged 36, I can recite film script of many films and sitcoms, remember words to hundreds of songs, and I am also very good at remebering phone numbers, car plates and other small details. I would like to appear on T.V to demonstrate this, and may do in the future, but I suffer a severe social phobia, and struggle dealing with too many people. Being a female with this condition makes me more unusual as I've read it is far more common in men. I do have heightened senses also, my hearing is extrememly acute, and I have to wear a walkman most of the time as I cannot stand sudden loud noises. Savant syndrome may be connected to other heighted senses. My friends say I have Aspergers Syndrome and I am awaitng assesment for this, as nervous problems have stopped me working for several years.

BeatsMe (author) on March 15, 2010:

Hi Courtney, thanks for visiting and for sharing your encounter with a savant. I think there are intelligent people who are anti-social but are not necessarily savants. Anyway, people interaction can sometimes be practiced and improved, that is, if the person is willing. Cheers.

Courtney Lajoie on March 12, 2010:


Thank you for posting this. It helped me a lot because I know someone with this sydrome. He is incredibly intellectual but is very anti-social. He has the calendar talent and is more than exceptional at math. I find it very sad that they cannot interact with people very well. Anyway, thank you very much for clarifying exactly what Savant Syndrome is. -Courtney

BeatsMe (author) on December 23, 2009:

Savants are pretty amazing. Their existence shows us that it's possible for us to be superhumans. Unfortunately though, at present, when people are born savants, they just couldn't take care of themselves. As for people who were born normal, we'd never possess the abilities of savants. So much for superhumans, huh?

Thanks for sharing your knowledge about savants, Mike. Additional information is always appreciated here. Cheers.

MikeNV from Henderson, NV on December 22, 2009:

"Cognitive skills, logical skills, and analytical skills are absent in savants". Interestingly enough Daniel Tammet seems to be the exception as he is able to describe for scientist what he sees inside his own brain.

I find it interesting that a Savant like Stephen Wiltshire is Right Handed.

So much we can learn from these individuals, so little we know.

BeatsMe (author) on November 19, 2009:

Hi William, I really appreciate your sharing your personal experience with Derek. I do hope that Derek would share more of his story to more people and that he becomes an inspiration for many. :)

William Edwards on November 18, 2009:

I have had the pleasure of working directly with musical savant Derek Amato for the past three years. It is a personal experience I could never share with words. Derek is sharing his story throughout the world and continues to make amazing music. Enjoy.

BeatsMe (author) on September 30, 2009:

Hi Patricia, yes he is. He's one of those rare autistic children who were born savants. Not all autistics are savants, your nephew just happen to be one.

Thanks for sharing about your nephew's capabilities. Cheers.

Patricia on September 29, 2009:

I have a great nephew who is dianosed Autistic, he is always asking everyone when they were born and can remember the dates even if he only met them once and has not seem them for months. Just recently we discovered that you can give him a date and a year and he can tell you what day it fell on (mon-sun) it's quite amazing to us. Is he considered a Savant?

BeatsMe (author) on September 29, 2009:

Hi MKCostello, thanks. :)

I agree, it's amazing what they can do that the rest of us couldn't. Good luck on your article. :)

mkcostello on September 29, 2009:

I'm writing a paper on savant and your information is possibly the best..so thank you!!

By the way, this is an amazing disorder. I got the chills from watching youtube videos about these people, amazing.

BeatsMe (author) on March 14, 2009:

Hi AEvans, thanks. I'm glad you find this interesting. :)

Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on March 13, 2009:

This is an intriguing topic and quite interesting, you should write more topics on these subjects.:) Wonderful hub my friend:)

BeatsMe (author) on March 08, 2009:

LOL. I don't think it's hardly used. You have many hubs. :)

quicksand on March 07, 2009:

... but ... I have only one brain ... and its hardly used ... :)

BeatsMe (author) on March 07, 2009:

Hi Quicksand. I'm glad you've finally spotted this. Your brain is not at fault for this, don't worry. :)

Your right brain was probably busy with interesting hubs and your left brain was probably busy with analyzing hubs. :D

quicksand on March 07, 2009:

Very interesting stuff. How come I missed it? Is my brain at fault or is it that I just did not spot it? :)

BeatsMe (author) on February 18, 2009:

Hi, Katyzzz. Thanks.

katyzzz from Sydney, Australia on February 18, 2009:

WOW you certainly do your homework well, excellent material in a wonderful hub, well done

BeatsMe (author) on January 25, 2009:

Hello, Tiara. Thanks for sharing your knowledge here. And congrats for having genius children.

Tiara designs from undisclosed location on January 24, 2009:

I am a savant of sorts and I record how I do it, channeling the right side of the brain.

I am hyper creative and manage with my abilities and really don't have many disabilities. I write about being one and being creative and using the right side of the brain. I did that right brain test online recently and tested 83% right brain but I knew when I did the test I could have tested higher but I like to keep a grip on the left side of the brain which contains analitical and reasoning ability

I can write, but I am a bit dyslexic- I can sculpt, paint, draw, make perfume

about anything creative I can master... anyway I found this interesting.

the idiot savant the doll invention tiara designs

if you are all interested in how a savant writes, I mostly write poetry

but have downloaded many of my thoughts online- some on this site

I also have recorded online --how I see light and hear it

because I am also a synthesthia

-- you may all find it interesting-= how I see the world so different than most. by the way I am not mentally retarded and they believe now Einstein most likely was one too..

interesting article --

and am functional in every way- my children are all genuis level

that is what I write about and how I see the world

because I see it so much different than most

BeatsMe (author) on September 29, 2008:

Hi RA, I agree with you too. ;) Thanks for dropping by.

Research Analyst on September 28, 2008:

This is great information, amazing how ones disability can actually be an advantage is used correctly.

BeatsMe (author) on August 05, 2008:

I agree with you, cgull. Thanks for dropping by. :)

cgull8m from North Carolina on August 04, 2008:

I saw a Savant in 60 minutes, he was only 14 years old and already conducting orchestras in London and writing his own piece as well, but other than that he has a hard time living, his parents are helping him a lot. They are also special we should take care of them. They can teach us a lot.

BeatsMe (author) on June 29, 2008:

Hi Eileen. Thanks for dropping by.

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on June 28, 2008:

That is incredible, I knew about the brain, but did not realise everything else about savants, Thanks for sharing this with us.

BeatsMe (author) on June 19, 2008:

Hi Chef Jeff, thanks for sharing. True savants are very rare. Most likely, most of us just see them on news or magazines featuring them. You're lucky to have known one.

Chef Jeff from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago. on June 18, 2008:

I know a true savant (diagnosed as such) who used to play piano at my restaurant. He never took a lesson and yet can play any song, as long as he has heard it at least once. He does not read music but just knows what keys to play. I have never seen anyone like that before in my life!

He does not pla it just like the recording, however, and often adds his own touches to the song. I did not know a savant could do this.