Idiot-savants are people who were born with damaged brains and they are usually retarded, except in one spectacular area. For instance, when given a date, many of them can instantly tell you what day of the week it was?something most of us can't begin to do. Now an Australian researcher wants to tap into the genius part of the ordinary brain and turn the rest of us into savants. Dr. Allan Snyder says, "We have these severely brain-impaired people who are performing what seems ostensibly to be a miracle. It must be something that's in us all, and we can't access. They can."
In abcnews.com Bob Brown tells how Dr. Snyder fires magnetic pulses into targeted areas of the brains of normal people in an experiment designed to discover their hidden, genius-like abilities in art, music, and math. Snyder believes that normal brains are always filtering information. He wants to suppress that process in order to bring out the genius in the average brain.
Brown quotes savant Kim Peek, the savant who was the model for Dustin Hoffman the movie Rain Man. "If I was born November 1, 1945, what day of the week was that?" a woman asked him in a group we were taping. "Thursday," he replied instantly. "And this year it's Monday and you retire in 2010, likewise on a Monday."
He writes, "Stephen Wiltshire, an autistic savant I met in 1991, became world famous for his books of architectural illustrations, even though he was walled off emotionally by his autism and had no conceptual appreciation of the buildings he could draw-accurately and beautifully?from memory." How do they do it?and why can't we? "These are people who are hyper-literal," Snyder says. "They see the world, they see the shading, they see the details in this world that we bypass and we're never aware of. But of course, they pay often a heavy price for that. They don't have the concepts. They don't have the meaning?I'm using artificial means, in this case magnetic pulses to create virtual lesions?artificial brain damage?in a way that I can switch it on and off and have you display savant skills." The "artificial" damage isn't permanent, but it temporarily suppress activity in some areas of the brain.
Kim's brain, for instance, is lacking the bridge called the corpus callosum, which links the right and left hemispheres of the brain. One of its functions is to filter raw information. Without it, Kim retains 95% of everything he reads in one sitting.
Snyder says, "There's another person we've worked with who got hit on the head with a baseball when he was 9 years old. He became very quickly?a calendar calculator. How can this be due to practice?"
Due to a brain disease, Jack Friedman changed from a conservative businessman to an artist whose works sold for hundred of dollars each at California galleries, but his ability to function in everyday life declined drastically.
Snyder says, "I don't want to be able to draw like a savant. But what I would like to do is see the world just for a moment the way it really is. I'd like to be able to switch off the mind sets, switch off the prejudices if you like?make new connections. Humans are very good at concepts. They're very bad at seeing the world in a new light. If I can switch off the part of your mind that has that mind set...and allow you to just momentarily to look at the world in a new light, then you might see a different way to connect the dots."
We'll never know what genius created the terracotta warriors?8,000 perfectly preserved life-sized statues found in a 2,000 year old tomb. They contain the encoded principles of an ancient solar science and its remarkable insights into heaven, hell, and the immortality of the soul.
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