Kim Peek

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MoffyUK
 
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2010 03:05 pm
The most famous Autistic Savant, Kim Peek recently died. He was apparently able to read two pages of a book simultaneously - one with each eye. And generally remembered 90+% of the content of the books he read. At a rate of about 5 a day, including complete telephone directories, this is a prodigous capacity to absorb information. Other savants are able to play even complex pieces of music note perfect after one hearing, and never forget that music.

The point here is not really so much that they have profound capabilities and capacities, but that the rest of us are by contrast extraordinarily lacking. The brain of a savant might be in some way different in structure to a 'normal' brain, but it has the same basic capacity and capabilities. It is, in my view, more that the rest of us have heavily dampened cerebral abilities. And this is the subject of my question. Quite why are we so mentally handicapped in comparison to autistic savants, even though they are generally deemed to be the defective amongst us?

My theory is that the stability that a low functioning - 'normal' brain - brings has evolved for it's ability to socially conform. And certainly savants are often socially handicapped to a large degree. To a lesser degree, intellectual geniuses also often struggle to equate with their lesser able fellow man, and this is sometimes a high price they pay for their mental 'advantage'.

The focus of this matter is not that this shows how different we all are, but that essentially the same 3lb lump of brain matter in one person can give them abilities that are many orders of magnitude more advanced than the majority. It is as if we are all fitted with Einstein brains that have most of the functionality switched off so that we can get on with the mundanity of life.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2010 03:20 pm
@MoffyUK,
Usually autistic savants have extraodinary ability in just one area (or just a couple), and very limited ability in all other areas. Something about a memory dysfunction that gives them a sort of "deep but narrow" memory isn't it?

I disagree with your statements about "low functioning so we can socially conform" and "functionality switched off so that we can get on with the mundanity of life". I think social abilities like humor, being able to love, joy and compassion, etc, are not mundane or low functioning at all.
 
MoffyUK
 
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2010 03:50 pm
@MoffyUK,
Many thanks for replying. I agree with what you say, so have to rephrase my statement. The low functioning in 'normals' I am referring to is in the narrow sphere that savants excel in. I am not quite convinced that the balance of abilities that normal people have, and which savants obviously lack, is enough to explain the degree of degradation of information retention and recall that normal people 'suffer'. But it may be.

The salient point is not so much the obvious trade off, but more that savant capacity for knowledge would consume more neural real estate than that required for our compensatory emotional skills. Or at least I presume so. Do we have that capacity in addition to our social and emotional skills, but have it tempered in its effectiveness?

My feeling is that this is indeed the case. But I am no brain expert, hence this dialogue.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2010 06:34 pm
@MoffyUK,
I remember seeing a documentary about him. Even though he was capable of memorizing a lot of stuff he could barely function on his own. His father had to help him with every day activities.

Would it be possible to have the best of both brain activity? Or is there something that is necessary for certain brain functions to actually work? Is it like a switch, you can't have both, it can only be one way or the other?
 
MoffyUK
 
Reply Sat 24 Apr, 2010 03:13 am
@MoffyUK,
Maybe this is the case, but I still suspect that Peek's information retention took up much brain real estate, as I called it, than social skills. Remembering 90% of the content of 5 books a day for decades is around 50,000 books, which is a huge amount of information to store, even if not stored with a 'photographic' memory.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Sat 24 Apr, 2010 05:24 am
@MoffyUK,
MoffyUK;155991 wrote:
Maybe this is the case, but I still suspect that Peek's information retention took up much brain real estate, as I called it, than social skills. Remembering 90% of the content of 5 books a day for decades is around 50,000 books, which is a huge amount of information to store, even if not stored with a 'photographic' memory.


In kim's case I don't see the practicality of it. But if he were more independent and functional having that ability to absorb and retain that much information would have massive practical usage. It would surely make the entire learning process different. You could pretty much be self taught everything. The reason being is that information would be redirected at a huge rate. Books would be specifically designed around the ability so information absorption would probably be more efficient. But like I said, with his ability it was very impractical for him since he didn't do anything with all that information except travel around and make a few people clap at his abilities. He couldn't transform any of that ability into a career. Unless you consider being a basic "side show" attraction a career, his ability was wasted.
 
MoffyUK
 
Reply Sat 24 Apr, 2010 06:49 am
@MoffyUK,
Thanks for all the replies by the way.

My enquiry seems to boil down to the question as to whether savant capability has the same brain 'weight' as the social skills lost. Do we tend to get social skills or mental skills, but not both in high levels.

But where does this place people like Leonardo Da Vinci, or even Bill Gates?
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sat 24 Apr, 2010 04:23 pm
@MoffyUK,
MoffyUK;155808 wrote:

The salient point is not so much the obvious trade off, but more that savant capacity for knowledge would consume more neural real estate than that required for our compensatory emotional skills. Or at least I presume so. Do we have that capacity in addition to our social and emotional skills, but have it tempered in its effectiveness?


I don't think we've tempered it's effectiveness, no. It seems more likely a genetic change in the brain structure. Einstein had a section of his brain that was physically larger than normal (although that's a limited study obviously). I think with some of these conditions they have showed brain damage. That most likely causes the extraordinary capabilities. They don't seem valuable from an evolutionary standpoint, especially compared to social and emotional skills which are crucial.
 
chriszhok
 
Reply Thu 1 Sep, 2011 03:08 pm
Kim peek sayd once Im a Star but you are heaven and what he really meant with that was that we are like this because it should be like that i know how kim peeks brain looked like and i know we have this filter maybe he knew why we have it Wink
 
 

 
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