Friday, March 4, 2011

Mental Abilities: Genius, Savant and Autism

Explain in detail what "savant syndrome" means.
Savants are people who despite serious mental or physical disability have quite remarkable, and sometimes spectacular, talents. Savant syndrome is perhaps one of the most fascinating phenomena in the study of human differences and cognitive psychology. It is often claimed that, because of the extraordinary abilities involved, we will never truly understand human memory and cognition until we understand the savant. Savant syndrome is exceedingly rare, but a remarkable condition in which persons with autism, or other serious mental handicaps, or major mental illness, have astonishing islands of ability or brilliance that stand out in stark contrast to their overall disability.
What does genius mean?  Explain the difference between genius and savant.
Genius is actually very difficult to define. For one thing, it is quite a subjective label – for some, a genius is anyone with an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) higher than a certain value. Others, however, feel that IQ is a very poor and unrepresentative measure of a person’s total intelligence and therefore IQ scores are a poor reflection of real genius. Generally, it is accepted that a genius is not only someone with a very high IQ but also someone who breaks new ground with new ideas, discoveries, inventions or even works of art. In other words, a genius challenges the way other people view the field in which he works in – or even the world at large. The difference between genius and savant is that a genius is good at many areas while a savant is only good in an specific thing.  

What is a stroke and how could it affect your mental functioning?
A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel or artery, or when a blood vessel breaks and interrupts blood flow to an and bleeding occurs into an area of the brain. The symptoms and effects vary according to the type of stroke, the part of the brain affected and the size of the damaged area. For some people the effects are severe, for some mild.  Usually the symptoms come on suddenly but they may come on during sleep.  Usually injury to one side of the brain affects the opposite side of the body.
What is a functional MRI and how does it help us understand brain activity?
Functional neuroimaging is the use of neuroimaging technology to measure an aspect of brain function, often with a view to understanding the relationship between activity in certain brain areas and specific mental functions. It is primarily used as a research tool in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, and social neuroscience.
What is the corpus callosum and what role does it play in your brain's activity?
The Corpus Callosum is thought to have a hand in problem solving. During adolescence, the nerve fibers thicken and process information more efficiently over time.
What is epilepsy and how might it affect your brain's abilities?
Epilepsy is a condition in which people have epileptic attacks (also known as seizures). It is one of the more common neurological conditions, affecting 0.5-1 per cent of the population. Epilepsy is not a single condition, but a group of conditions with differing causes, treatments and prognoses. At present, most doctors would not diagnose a patient as epileptic if they had only suffered a single seizure. This is because epilepsy is defined as a condition in which patients have recurrent seizures.The brain is made up of a vast number of nerve cells (neurones) which communicate with each other through electrical signals. The interplay between these neurones has to be carefully regulated for the brain to function properly.
 What is autism?
Autism is a moderately rare condition resulting from a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. It is a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the developing brain, resulting in sometimes profound communicative, social and cognitive deficits
What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger syndrome  is a form of  autism. The condition is characterized by difficulties with Social Interaction, Social Communication and Flexibility of Thinking or Imagination. In addition, there may be sensory, motor and organizational difficulties. 

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