Paper: Inducing savant-like counting abilities with rTMS

From: Neil H. (
Date: Fri Jun 16 2006 - 15:22:44 MDT

(x-posted to extropy-chat)

Back in 2003 there was a popular-press article on Allan Snyder's work
with using transcranial magnetic stimulation to temporarily induce
savant-like abilities in human subjects, reportedly having effects
like drawing ability or Rainman-style counting:

It looks like there's now a publication on some of his results:

Title: Savant-like numerosity skills revealed in normal people by
magnetic pulses

Abstract: Oliver Sacks observed autistic twins who instantly guessed
the exact number of matchsticks that had just fallen on the floor,
saying in unison "111". To test the suggestion that normal individuals
have the capacity for savant numerosity, we temporarily simulated the
savant condition in normal people by inhibiting the left anterior
temporal lobe of twelve participants with repetitive transcranial
magnetic stimulation (rTMS). This site has been implicated in the
savant condition. Ten participants improved their ability to
accurately guess the number of discrete items immediately following
rTMS and, of these, eight became worse at guessing as the effects of
the pulses receded. The probability of as many as eight out of twelve
people doing best just after rTMS and not after sham stimulation by
chance alone is less than one in one thousand.

(If you can't access the full-text PDF, let me know, and I can send you a copy)

FYI, it looks like there's also some other publications and
popular-press articles regarding Snyder here:

I'm still waiting to see similar results reproduced in other labs, but
it's certainly interesting stuff.

-- Neil

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:56 MDT