Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How to become a mathematical genius - temporarily

Perception 2006, volume 35, number 6, pages 837 – 845

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

Allan Snyder, Homayoun Bahramali, Tobias Hawker, D John Mitchell
Received 3 August 2005, in revised form 19 October 2005; published online 3 May 2006

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.


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