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Do calendrical savants use calculation to answer date questions? A functional magnetic resonance imaging study

Cowan, R; Frith, C; (2009) Do calendrical savants use calculation to answer date questions? A functional magnetic resonance imaging study. PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES , 364 (1522) 1417 - 1424. 10.1098/rstb.2008.0323.

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Abstract

Calendrical savants can name the weekdays for dates from different years with remarkable speed and accuracy. Whether calculation rather than just memory is involved is disputed. Grounds for doubting whether they can calculate are reviewed and criteria for attributing date calculation skills to them are discussed. At least some calendrical savants possess date calculation skills. A behavioural characteristic observed in many calendrical savants is increased response time for questions about more remote years. This may be because more remote years require more calculation or because closer years are more practised. An experiment is reported that used functional magnetic resonance imaging to attempt to discriminate between these explanations. Only two savants could be scanned and excessive head movement corrupted one savant's mental arithmetic data. Nevertheless, there was increased parietal activation during both mental arithmetic and date questions and this region showed increased activity with more remote dates. These results suggest that the calendrical skills observed in savants result from intensive practice with calculations used in solving mental arithmetic problems. The mystery is not how they solve these problems, but why.

Type: Article
Title: Do calendrical savants use calculation to answer date questions? A functional magnetic resonance imaging study
Location: Royal Soc, London, ENGLAND
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0323
Keywords: arithmetic, savant syndrome, functional magnetic resonance imaging, CALENDAR CALCULATION ABILITY, IDIOT-SAVANT, NUMBER, SKILLS, ACTIVATION, AUTISM, MEMORY
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/70351
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