Is the brain of an autistic savant different from any other brain? That’s what researchers at the University of Washington recently tried to determine when they investigated the neuroanatomy, regional brain connectivity, and neurochemistry of a 63-year-old male autistic savant with prodigious artistic skills. No gross anatomical differences were observed, but “utilization of conventional as well as newer MR imaging technologies revealed several atypical structural and chemical features that may be involved in the special skills of this prodigious savant,” the researchers wrote online December 29 in Comprehensive Psychology. They also felt that the multimodal imaging approach presented in the study is suitable for evaluating larger samples of savants with a range of talents. And there may be other advantages, as well: “Given the high co-occurrence of the two syndromes, elucidating the underlying neurophysiologic basis of savant syndrome may also lead to a better understanding of autism spectrum disorder,” they said.
Psychiatrist Darold Treffert, M.D., a leading expert on savant syndrome, believes the condition may yield lessons about the nature of creativity and the dormant potential in all human beings. Read about it in Psychiatric News.