Savants are extremely rare individuals who, although often
severely brain impaired - frequently by autism, stroke or dementia
- can display islands of astonishing excellence in specific areas,
including drawing, memory, music, calendar calculations, and arithmetic.
Their skills are literal, non-symbolic, and apparently not derived
from practice. They often emerge 'spontaneously' and do not improve
qualitatively with time, even though their skill might be better
articulated. Savants typically have no idea how they do what they
The astonishing skills of savants have been suggested to exist
in everyone, but are not normally accessible without some form
of brain impairment. We attempt to simulate such brain impairment
in healthy people by directing low-frequency magnetic pulses into
the left front-temporal lobe, a site implicated in the savant
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a safe, non-invasive method of brain stimulation that can temporarily increase or decrease cortical excitability at the stimulated site, depending on the current flow. Although this technique is already used for rehabilitation, our MindLab is a pioneer in the use of tDCS for the purpose of cognitive enhancement.
In our papers (below), we show that by applying non-invasive brain stimulation to the left fronto-temporal lobe, skills
such as drawing, proof-reading and numerosity significantly improve.