Kim Peek, The Rain Man Autistic Savant

Kim Peek, whose life inspired the movie Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, had macrocephaly resulting from damage to the cerebellum. He was missing parts of his brain, so he didn’t learn to walk until age four and still walked in a sidelong manner until his passing. He could not button up his shirt and had difficulty with other motor activities. His IQ scores were well below average.

However, in spite of his deficiencies, he could recall books in their entirety, from memory. He had photographic recall of about 98 percent of what he read one time. His ability to read came suddenly at age three:

At age three Kim asked his parents what the word “confidential” meant. He was kiddingly told to look it up in the dictionary and he did just that. He somehow knew how to use the alphabetical order to locate the word and then proceeded to read, phonetically, the word’s definition. Since that time Kim has read, and can recall, some 6,000 books.

[Kim] memorized over 6000 books and has encyclopedic knowledge of geography, music, literature, history, sports and nine other areas of expertise. He can name all the US area codes and major city zip codes. He has also memorize the maps in the front of telephone books and can tell you precisely how to get from one US city to another, and then how to get around in that city street by street. He also has calendar-calculating abilities and . . . rather advanced musical talent. Of unique interest is his ability to read extremely rapidly, simultaneously scanning one page with the left eye and the other page with the right eye. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) shows the absence of the corpus collosum along with other substantial central nervous system (CNS) damage.*

The most reasonable explanation for the savant’s unexplainable ability is that memory and the mind aren’t in the brain. A person not focused on the physical realm has access to a great variety of other abilities and memories. The savant’s knowledge seems to come from the same place from which a psychic receives knowledge that is outside of the immediate physical environment.

* Darold Treffert, “The savant syndrome: an extraordinary condition. A synopsis: past, present, future.” Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. May 27, 2009. 364(1522):1351-7.

Joe Charles: Kim Peek, The Real Rain Man