Update: February 23, 2015
Jason Padgett: Accidental Genius
A new video provides an update on Jason Padgett. He was an ordinary fellow who had a severe concussion in 2002. Following that, he had an instant synesthesia consisting of vivid images. With no prior interest or ability in art or mathematics, he began to draw these images, which turned out to be complex fractals and other mathematical concepts. He has advanced his mathematical ability, and his drawings have become sought-after art pieces.
Jason was featured in Dr. Treffert’s “Accidental Genius” article in the August, 2014 issue of Scientific American, and he will be the featured lecturer at the 8th Annual Treffert Lecture Series at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wis. on April 15, 2015. Interested persons can sign up for the free lecture at http://www.marianuniversity.edu/treffertseries/. More information about Jason and examples of his art are available on Jason’s website: www.Jason-Padgett.artistwebsites.com.
Update: February 4, 2015
Genetic Memory: How we know things we never learned
In this Scientific American blog post by Dr. Treffert, he explores genetic memory as an explanation for how savants (and the rest of us) know things we never learned. It expands the concept of inheritance to include specific bits of “knowledge” (the “rules” of music, art and math, for example) beyond the more typically mentioned physical characteristics such as eye color, facial features, height and posture, and certain behavioral patterns. This observation has been furthered particularly by instances of the acquired savant.
Update: January 15, 2015
Hyperlexia and Hypernumeracy
An excellent “for example” description and video of hyperlexia comes from the viewpoint of one of the real experts on that condition — a parent.
This post by Dyan Robson usefully adds the term hypernumeracy to the condition since the fascination with numbers is often as intense as the preoccupation with letters.
—Darold Treffert, MD
Update: January 6, 2015
Beyond ‘Foreign Accent syndrome,’ ‘Foreign Language syndrome’
There have been two instances recently of young men emerging from coma fluently speaking a foreign language.
Ben McMahon had studied Mandarin early in his schooling but never mastered the language. However, in 2014 he emerged from a coma speaking fluent Mandarin as seen in this Mirror online post. Likewise, a British football player awoke from a coma after a serious auto accident speaking fluent French. Again, he had some exposure to French in the past but never spoke it fluently.
Cases of what has been called “foreign accent syndrome” have been reported, wherein people recovered from head injury with a foreign accent, but these cases exceed that with an entirely new fluency in a foreign language. Since these individuals had some exposure to the foreign language in terms of learning, they do not represent genetic memory as such. But the phenomenon of gaining fluency in a foreign language following head injury goes beyond foreign accent syndrome and joins the “acquired savant” category.
—Darold Treffert, MD