VSL:SCIENCE // An autistic’s take on autism

You’d think that a man who recites pi to the 22,514th digit and learns Icelandic in a week would be wired differently from the rest of us. But Daniel Tammet — author of the best-selling Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant — suggests in his new book, Embracing the Wide Sky, that his remarkable cognitive powers are closely related to our own.

Tammet’s example? He processes numbers the same way that we process conversations — rapidly, unconsciously, and with a seemingly intuitive grasp of the elements involved.

It’s a good analogy, but not quite convincing: The author acknowledges especially heavy neural traffic between the brain areas that control his computational and linguistic abilities. Still, it’s rare to see an autistic person convey his thoughts (and feelings) so clearly: Tammet’s book is a striking addition to the rapidly expanding body of neuroscientific literature.

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VSL:SCIENCE // An autistic’s take on autism