Wellington: A neuropsychologist from Sydney is working to unlock extraordinary potential in ordinary minds.
An acquired savant is a person, who is perfectly ordinary until an injury to the brain, usually to the left hemisphere of the brain, helps them possess a remarkable ability, like photographic memory, a talent for a musical instrument despite no prior training, a sudden propensity for complex mathematical equations, the ability to sculpt or draw scale replicas of objects they`ve only glimpsed, Stuff.co.nz reported.
The brain damage sometimes unlocks something in their brains as the right hemisphere compensates for the injury, the result of which, very rarely, is a great skill, which is unfathomable to the ordinary person.
Founder of the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney, Dr Allan Snyder, said that he had an idea that these skills must be latent within everyone.
He said that unlike savants, people don`t have access to them, however, he believed that maybe he could release them himself by decreasing the influence of the left brain hemisphere and enhancing the right.
Savants are exceedingly rare, and while estimates vary, it is believed that nearly 10 percent of the autistic people have savant abilities, compared to less than one percent of the rest of the population.
Snyder said that he was inspired by the fact that music, art, mathematics are taken by many to be an exceptional ability in humans requiring laborious hours of study and training but a group of savants are able to do these things.
His first attempts to bring out the skills of such proportion were not so successful.
Snyder and his team used magnetic pulses on people`s brains to temporarily make the area underneath the pulses less inhibited.
Then, the team looked at transcranial direct-current stimulation, where non-invasive and weak electrical currents were applied to the brain.
In this, an electrode is placed on each side of the heads, over the anterior temporal lobes just above the ears.
A weak electric current then passes between the electrodes. The dose given, Snyder says, changes the behaviour of the underlying neurons in participants for about an hour.
His experiments have shown during that 60-minute window that people are capable of solving arithmetic problems, which will usually stump them.
During one experiment, 33 participants of his experiment were asked to solve the difficult nine-dots problem, Snyder says, that about 5 percent of participants manage to solve it, even with hints and added time. In his experiment group, no participant could solve it.
But after receiving the stimulation 14 of them were able to crack it.
The results of his study have been published in the journal Neuroscience Letters.