Hypercalculia in savant syndrome: central executive failure?

Arch Med Res. Nov-Dec 2002;33(6):586-9. doi: 10.1016/s0188-4409(02)00404-6.


Background: The existence of outstanding cognitive talent in mentally retarded subjects persists as a challenge to present knowledge. We report the case of a 16-year-old male patient with exceptional mental calculation abilities and moderate mental retardation.

Methods: The patient was clinically evaluated. Data from standard magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and two 99mTc-ethyl cysteine dimer (ECD)-single photon emission computer tomography (SPECT) (in resting condition and performing a mental calculation task) studies were analyzed.

Results: Main neurologic findings were brachycephalia, right-side neurologic soft signs, obsessive personality profile, low color-word interference effect in Stroop test, and diffuse increased cerebral blood flow during calculation task in 99mTc-ECD SPECT. MRI showed anatomical temporal plane inverse asymmetry.

Conclusions: Evidence appears to support the hypothesis that savant skill is related to excessive and erroneous use of cognitive processing resources instigated by probable failure in central executive control mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability* / diagnosis*
  • Intelligence
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Memory
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Obsessive Behavior
  • Syndrome
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon