Neurophysiological bases of outstanding skills in autistic savants
Savant syndrome is a rare condition in which persons with various developmental disorders, including autistic disorder, have astonishing islands of ability that stand in contrast to their overall limitations. Savant skills include performing music, drawing and painting, calculating, learning foreign languages, and knowing the day of the week for any date in the calendar (calendar calculating). These skills are usually combined with a prodigious memory. Approximately 10% of persons with autistic disorder have some savant skills, and 50% of persons with savant syndrome are autistic. To date there is no single theory that could explain all phenomena of the savant syndrome.
The aim of our studies is to investigate the neurophysiological basis of outstanding skills in autistic savants. For this purpose we have recorded the electromagnetic brain activity with magnetoencephalography and electroencephalography in autistic individuals with reported savants skills, while they were performing different tasks. Hereby our special interests were memory processes and calendar calculating. Participants have been diagnosed with autistic disorder, or Asperger syndrome by our cooperators at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt/M
(Prof. Dr. F. Poustka, PD Dr. S. Bölte).
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