How much intelligence can you acquire?


Acquired Savant Syndrome

Recently, I heard about this case of a man who hit his head on the bottom of a swimming pool when diving and acquired incredible musical abilities and synesthesia (when a patient sees certain colors or patterns when they hear music).  Basically, he sat down at the piano for the first time after the accident, and now he composes music based on the black and white patterns that appear in his mind (he can’t actually read music).


They mention that he is the only case of Acquired Sudden Music Savant Syndrome in the entire world, but he is certainly not the first “acquired savant”. Alonzo Clemens became a very gifted sculptor after a head injury in childhood.  There was also an 8-year-old boy that became capable of calendar calculating (if you give him a date that happened after the accident, he can tell you what day of the week it was) after a left hemispherectomy.  Tony Cicoria was struck by lightening and began composing classical piano pieces.  Orlando Serrell was 10 when he was hit by a baseball (on the LEFT side of the head).   A few days later, he was able to do calendar calculating.  He can also tell you the what the weather was like on any day.


Brain images of the acquired savants showed an asymmetric temporal lobe degeneration (which matched child-born, or congenital, savants) and enhanced function in the posterior neocortex.  If these patients had dormant artistic skills until they suffered an injury to their left temporal lobe, does that mean other or all people have hidden talents as well? (And why didn’t I acquire great skills after suffering from multiple concussions?!?) Or are congenital savants really caused by their environment (either prenatally or very early on).  Oh uh, we’re back to nature vs. nurture again!


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3 thoughts on “How much intelligence can you acquire?

  1. Fascinating! But also so hard to believe or understand how it occurs or how these abilities can exist, sudden acquisition or not.
    p.s. who are you? 🙂


  2. The idea that we have this hidden potential is a little unnerving but super cool! Wow, I want to figure out another, less damaging, way to access these skills.


  3. I’ve heard of the calendar savant skill pretty often. Seems like a weird thing to be common, makes me wonder what makes them able to calculate/know that so quickly.


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