Now for Savant Syndrome, which is one of the most interesting things I’ve read about for a while (as an aside, this concept was actually first written about by the guy who discovered Down’s syndrome, I love it when things like that happen). People with this (who were originally known as “idiot savants” meaning “knowledgeable idiots”), have developmental disabilities or learning difficulties, but at the same time have special skills that outclass either normal people (known as talented savants), or experts in their field (known as prodigious savants). The majority of savants have skills in music, art, or certain types of calculations, even though they often cannot perform normal mathematics, or even read and write in many cases. However, there are a few unusual cases of very high-functioning savants who can actually explain what goes on in their thinking, such as Temple Grandin, who might be clues to understanding how savantism works.
The thing that connects all savants, whatever their level of skill or disability, is memory, as all of them have an amazing memory for their skill, and anything related to that skill. This has led to a lot of research into how their minds work, as no-one can yet explain why savant syndrome exists. One belief about savantism is that the hypersensitivity often seen in savant and autistic people (10% of autistic people have some form of savant skill) means they perceive the world more intensely than a normal person, so absorb details and connections that others don’t notice.
Another theory is that skills such as theirs are innate, but in a normally-inaccessible/unused part of the brain, and their brain damage allows them to access this area. So theoretically, we could all be latent savants. Experiments have actually supported this; when people had magnetic pulses directed at their brain’s left hemisphere (the more logical part that usually deals with speech, writing, exact maths organisation etc) so their right hemisphere (the more creative side that usually deals with abstract thought, estimation, sounds and colours) were more active, they improved at savant-style tasks so were technically temporarily savants.
While this sounds more like science-fiction than psychology, and the knowledge of how and why that worked still isn’t clear, studies like this are still useful because they show how even when we think we’ve made more sense of how the brain works, it just gets even more intricate,wonderful, and confusing.