Friday, June 8, 2012

Acquired Savant Syndrome

Acquired Savant Syndrome occurs when a exceptional talents arise after a brain injury. The “Acquired” Savant—“Accidental” Genius by Darold A. Treffert, MD explains:

A 10-year-old boy is knocked unconscious by a baseball. Following that traumatic blow, he suddenly can do calendar calculations. He can also remember the weather, along with other autobiographical details of his daily life, from that time forward. An elderly woman who had never painted before becomes a prodigious artist after a particular type of dementia process begins and progresses. Another elderly patient with dementia has a similar sudden epiphany of ability, but this time in music. A 56-year-old builder, who had no particular prior interest or skills in art, abruptly, for the first time in his life, becomes a poet, a painter and a sculptor following a stroke that he miraculously survived. An 8-year-old boy begins calendar calculating after a left hemispherectomy for intractable seizures. These are examples of what I call the “acquired” savant, or what might also be called “accidental genius.”

Materialists will say acquired savant syndrome occurs when part of the brain is injured because, either inhibitory function is lost or another part of the brain becomes more active to compensate for the damaged part. But why should compensating for lost functions result in new abilities that never existed before? That is not "compensation". It also seems unlikely that evolution and natural selection could account for the existence of these exceptional abilities that are only expressed as a result of brain injury. The materialist explanations are even less plausible when you consider the details of the cases.

For example:

Derek Amato:

A man who suffered concussion after diving into a shallow pool has made a seemingly improbable discovery: it made him a musical genius.


Amato, who can not read music, explained that he knew what to play as he could see black and white squares in his head that triggered his fingers to move.

Tony Cicoria

At a park in 1994, Tony Cicoria, an orthopedic surgeon, was hanging up a pay phone when lightning from a gathering storm struck the booth, shooting through the phone and into his head.


Shortly afterwards, he had a mysterious, insatiable need to listen to classical piano music. But he soon found that just listening to the music wasn’t cutting it. So, despite never showing any desire to play an instrument before, he bought sheet music and began teaching himself the piano. Learning was slow going though, because instead of playing the Chopin composition in front of him, he kept wanting to play the melodies that were echoing inside his head instead. When he realized these songs were of his own creation, he began furiously writing them down until he had dozens composed. In 2008, Cicoria released a CD of his music called, Notes From An Accidental Pianist and Composer. His best-known song from the album is fittingly titled, “The Lightning Sonata.”

This is how the brain compensates for an injury?

These new skills do not require the training an uninjured person would need to develop them. Some people may be able to learn to use uninjured brain tissue to compensate for functions lost due to brain injury. For example, after a stroke a person may be able to relearn how to move paralyzed muscles. However this requires a long period of physical therapy and usually does not return full function. Yet in Acquired Savant Syndrome, skills that the subject didn't have before the injury arise fully formed without effort or intention.

Natural selection occurs when a trait evolves in response to an environmental factor. How can the ability to do calendar calculations or playing the piano in response to seeing black and white squares in the mind's eye be explained by natural selection? What is the survival advantage in having these abilities in response to an injury? Pianos and calendars have not existed long enough for natural selection to play a role in humankind's ability to use them without making an effort to learn how.

Compensation, and or natural selection are not good explanations for these phenomena. A better explanation for acquired savant syndrome is that the brain does not produce consciousness but is a filter of non-physical consciousness:

The filter model is superior to the hypothesis that the brain produces consciousness because the filter model explains more evidence. You can damage a filter in two ways. You can clog it or you can punch a hole in it. When brain damage causes loss of function like amnesia, that is like a clog in the filter. When brain injury results in increased function, that is like a hole punched in the filter. Examples of increased function include Acquired Savant Syndrome and when people have increased psychic abilities after a brain injury.

Update: Also see my more recent post: Savants and ESP

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