Mercury, I was reading something about a year ago that you might find very
interesting, about our innate ability to achieve savant-like
abilities without being autistic, and about the transformation of our brain's physical structure in response to our mental needs.
National Geographic had some articles on the mind in its March issue. In one such article, it was mentioned that the brain had the ability to actually
grow in some areas according to need. For example, taxi drivers in London were shown to have a larger rear portion of the hippocampus than the average
person, and a smaller front hippocampus. Because the rear portion is involved in our ability to make a mental map, this portion increased based on
need, and restructured neighboring regions to increase the ability
. You may think that people born with a larger rear hippocampus may naturally
choose this career because of their ability, but when subjects in an experiment in Germany spent 3 months juggling, they found an increase of gray
matter in areas associated with visual and motor activity, and a deacrease in surrounding areas. The brain is plastic and this is completely
Blind people were looked at in another article. It was thought possible that nerve connections reached across the brain to occupy areas such as the
visual cortex that were not needed. To test this, normal people were blindfolded for 5 days. After only 2 days, there was a burst of activity in the
visual cortex, which was odd considering this was not nearly enough time for nerve connections to grow to this area:
"And after just a few hours with the blindfold removed, the visual cortex again responded only to input from the eyes. So what accounts for this
sudden ability of the brain to "see" with input from the fingers and ears? Pascual-Leone suggests the connections from these senses to the visual
cortex may already be there but remain unused so long as the eyes are doing their job. When the eyes shut down, he next best way of getting the same
information springs into action. It's provocative, but we're arguing that the brain may not be organized into sensory modalities at all. What
neuroscientists have been calling the visual cortex for the past century might not be devoted exclusively to the eyes, but should more accurately be
defined as the area of the brain best able to discriminate spatial relationships-and it will grab whatever input is available to perform that
This doesn't discount what was said in the previous article. Certain parts of the brain have certain functions, but the brain is hardwired to use
any portion of the brain for another purpose
I wish I could find the article on autism, but I can summarize what was said fairly accurately. With an autistic person, certain areas of the brain
are more active than others. Sometimes memory is used extensively, and people can remember dialog from entire movies like was mentioned above.
Sometimes savants can find the 'sweet spot' in a room where sound waves converge to produce the best sound while music is playing, and there are
also a number of other abilities that they may have. If we all could consciously 'turn off' parts of our brain, we could all have these abilities.
We could be Einsteins one instant, and Beethoven's the next. It was even mentioned that job-specific pills
could be created to direct brain
power to a specific region or a few regions of the brain that are needed more than others based on the profession in which they are involved.
I remember seeing on TV, I think either Ripley's Believe it or Not, or Guiness Book of World Record a man who could concentrate his brain power to do
some unreal mathematical problems. He was just an average guy, but on command he could unleash, so to speak, his savant-like powers. He would be given
a number like 681,472, and say instantly that 88 is the cube root. He could take a problem like 24/127 and find the answer to however many decimal
places you would like to know. He described it as having laser guided vision in a way. Nothing else was in his mind except math when he wanted to show
off. He didn't say how he was able to do this, but it would be interesting if humans could activate savant-like abilities by methods like meditation,
concentration, and lots of practice. The impacts this would have would just be amazing.
Edit: I want to provide links, but I don't have access to national geographic articles online, and I am unable to find the link to the autism
article. Sorry, guess you guys just gotta trust me
[edit on 26-6-2005 by zhangmaster]