If you've ever seen the movie "Rain Man," you're probably somewhat familiar with savant syndrome. In the movie, Dustin Hoffman plays a man with incredible mental abilities – the character is based on a real American man named Kim Peek. At just 1 year old, Peek began demonstrating special abilities. He could read two pages of a book at once and comprehend every word and concept. As he grew older and read more, he was able to absorb and recall a limitless amount of information, from American history to sports statistics to how to drive to and from almost any two cities – all this despite major brain-related birth defects. Peek had an extremely rare condition called savant syndrome. Here's what savant syndrome is and how it relates to IQ:
What is savant syndrome?
Savants are people who have extraordinary talents despite a serious mental or developmental disability. Savant syndrome is extremely rare, and it affects many more men than women, though it's not clear why. People with the condition can have any number of remarkable skills, with savants exhibiting everything from abnormal memorization capabilities, to an affinity for numbers and calculation, to musical or artistic abilities. The syndrome is often related to autism, as there is some correlation: About 1 in 10 people with autism also have savant syndrome. However, around half of savants don't have autism, so neither necessarily causes the other.
Savant syndrome and IQ
Though savants demonstrate exceptional mental abilities that most people in a normal intelligence range could not, they actually typically have extremely low IQ scores. While there are several exceptions, a majority of those with savant syndrome have an IQ score between 40 and 70, well below the average of 100. To put it into perspective, IQ scores between 70 and 75 are typically indicative of someone with mental deficiencies. However, some people with savant syndrome have IQs up to 125. What's more, savant syndrome has been known to appear in people with relatively "normal" intelligence after a brain injury, epileptic seizure or other brain-related event.
Who are some famous savants?
Other than Kim Peek, there are many people with savant syndrome that have found fame through their amazing capabilities. A man named Alonzo Clemons is well-known for his ability to sculpt animals in perfect detail after seeing just a brief image of them. Leslie Lemke is a blind musical savant, who once traveled the world playing concerts and is able to play a complex arrangement on the piano after hearing it just once.