Autism and genius: is there a link? The involvement of central brain loops and hypotheses for functional testing

Funct Neurol. Jan-Mar 2010;25(1):15-20.


Mental processing is the product of the huge number of synaptic interactions that occur in the brain. It is easier to understand how brain functions can deteriorate than how they might be boosted. Lying at the border between the humanities, cognitive science and neurophysiology, some mental diseases offer new angles on this problematic issue. Despite their social deficits, autistic subjects can display unexpected and extraordinary skills in numerous fields, including music, the arts, calculation and memory. The advanced skills found in a subgroup of people with autism may be explained by their special mental functioning, in particular by their weak central coherence, one of the pivotal characteristics of the disorder. As a result of the increasing interest in autistic talent, there has recently emerged a tendency to screen any eccentric artist or scientist for traits of the autistic spectrum. Following this trend, we analyze the eccentricity of the popular pianist Glenn Gould and briefly discuss the major functional hypotheses on autistic hyperfunctioning, advancing proposals for functional testing. In particular, the potential involvement of rhythm-entrained systems and cerebro-cerebellar loops opens up new perspectives for the investigation of autistic disorders and brain hyperfunctioning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autistic Disorder / complications
  • Autistic Disorder / pathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Humanities* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology