Occasionally one will hear amazing stories of people experiencing traumatizing accidents and coming out with a brain injury, but also an uncanny ability to play music, paint, or solve theorems.
This miraculous occurrence is known as savant syndrome--"a condition in which a person with a developmental disability demonstrates profound and prodigious capacities or abilities far in excess of what would be considered normal. People with savant syndrome may have neurodevelopmental disorders, notably autism spectrum disorders, or brain injuries."
There is no mind-blowing scientific explanation behind savant syndrome. In fact, most scientists don't really understand the concept of newfound skills seemingly appearing from nowhere after a traumatic accident. However, it is believed that accidents causing damage to the brain also create mutations in DNA that lead to a deeper understanding of a particular subject--basically opening the passageways to the brain and facilitating easier focus and memorization. People with autism are also more prone to have this unusual syndrome because of the way their brains function as compared to unaffected individuals.
The movie Rain Man contains a character loosely based off of Kim Peek, who is a man with FG syndrome (similar to autism), as well as an exceptional memory. Both Peek and the character were greatly hindered socially and with ordinary motor skills, but were extremely intellectually advanced when it came to speed-reading and memorization. The film was used to illustrate the capabilities of autistic individuals and to prove that though different, they are just as valuable as someone who is neurotypical.
To give a personal example, here at the studio we cater to a student who was handicapped a few years ago with a traumatic brain injury. Though not musically talented before, this student quickly picked up piano after his accident. After only about a year, he is now a very skilled musician, as well as a calligraphy expert. He comes into the studio every so often to practice on the grand piano and to discuss style and theory concepts. This man determinedly applied himself to the studies of music and writing to prove that just because he cannot articulate his thoughts as well as others does not mean that he is by any means incapable. Whether it was a product of his motivation or a symptom of savant syndrome, this student demonstrated an amazing comeback and fights to give people a different outlook on disabled individuals.
Savant syndrome is not always the case when it comes to individuals with mental disorders! It is simply a beautiful example of what it means to unlock your brain's full potential, even after difficult hardships. Whether exhibiting superhuman skills or not, people with mental disorders are valuable members of society and should be treated as such. But how miraculous it is to see musical talent in the most unexpected places!
Author: Kirstan D.