Savant syndrome, characterized by remarkable islands of mental ability in otherwise mentally handicapped persons, may occur in autistic as well as nonautislic individuals. Overall, approximately 10% of autistic persons exhibit savant abilities; roughly 50% of those with savant syndrome have autism, and the remaining 50% have other forms of developmental disability. Most commonly, savant syndrome takes the form of extraordinary musical abilities, but may also include calendar-calculation, artistic, mathematical, spatial, mechanical, and memory skills. While savant syndrome was first described more than a century ago, only recently have researchers begun to employ a more uniform nomenclature and more standardized testing in an effort to compare the abilities of savants with those of normal persons. Males show signs of savant syndrome approximately four times more often than females. Along with imaging study findings, this fact suggests the presence of a developmental disorder involving left-brain damage with right-brain compensation.
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