Kim Peek, who lent inspiration to the fictional character Raymond Babbitt—played by Dustin Hoffman—in the movie Rain Man, was a remarkable savant. A savant is an individual who—with little or no apparent effort—completes intellectual tasks that would be impossible for ordinary people to master.
Kim Peek’s special abilities started early, around the age of a year and a half. He could read both pages of an open book at once, one page with one eye and the other with the other eye. This style of reading continued until his dead in 2009. His reading comprehension was impressive. He would retain 98 percent of the information he read. Since he spent most of his days in the library with his dad, he quickly made it through thousands of books, encyclopedia and maps. He could read a thick book in an hour and remember just about anything in it. Because he could quickly absorb loads of information and recall it when necessary, his condition made him a living encyclopedia and a walking GPS. He could provide driving directions between almost any two cities in the world. He could also do calendar calculations (“which day was June 15, 1632?”) and remember old baseball scores and a vast amount of musical, historical and political facts. His memory abilities were astounding.
Unlike many individuals with savant syndrome, Kim Peek was not afflicted with autistic spectrum disorder. Though he was strongly introverted, he did not have difficulties with socialunderstanding and communication. The main cause of his remarkable abilities seems to have been the lack of connections between his brain's two hemispheres. An MRI scan revealed an absence of the corpus callosum, the anterior commissure and the hippocampal commissure, the parts of the neurological system that transfer information between hemispheres. In some sense Kim was a natural born split-brain patient.
Peek's ability to retain large amounts of information may have had something to do with another condition he was afflicted with called macrocephaly. This brain abnormality consists in an excessively large head and a correspondingly huge brain. Kim's head was so heavy that it took several years before he could hold it up on his own.
As a baby the real rain man was diagnosed with mental retardationand the physicians told his parentsthat he never would be able to read or talk. They recommended sending their little boy to a mental institution and geting on with their lives. Despite the recommendation, Kim’s parents chose to raise him at home. They quickly realized that their little boy with the oversized head had a remarkable brain. Due to his parets' efforts, Kim had the oppotunity to develop his amazing talents. A large head does not equal intelligence or ability to retain information. But it does provide more storage space for someone who is able to process the content of 10,000 books, which was the number of books Peek had read by the time of the his death in 2009.
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