Autism spectrum conditions affect as many as one in a hundred people. One of the most startling aspects of this social-communication disorder is the high rate of special, or savant, skills. Around 10% of people with autism are thought to have a striking skill in music, art, calculation, or memory. So why might people with severe social-communication impairments be predisposed to develop perfect pitch, photographic-like memory, or lightening calculation? This book explores the puzzle of talent and its close association with autism. Expert contributors from many areas of both science and the arts describe the latest research - using brain scanning, experimental tasks, twin studies, and case histories of extraordinary savants. It considers the many puzzling questions that the relationship between autism and talent raises: Do similar genetic effects predispose for talent and for autism? What is the role of obsessive practice? Could we all become savants? What is special in the brains of people with savant skills? Is detail-focus at the root of talent in individuals with and without autism?
How can talents best be fostered in children and adults with social and communication difficulties? With contributions from some of the leading authorities in the world, the book tries to unravel the mystery of savant skills in autism, as well as reflecting on the very different way that people with autism (with or without talent) see and understand the world. It will be of great interest to a broad readership across the sciences, arts, and humanities
Uta Frith studied experimental psychology in Germany and clinical psychology at the University of London's Institute of Psychiatry. Throughout her career she has worked as a research scientist funded mainly by the Medical Research Council UK. She is now Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Visiting Professor at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. Uta Frith's main focus of research are the developmental disorders of autism and dyslexia. In both fields she has pioneered an approach that combines experimental, neuropsychological and neuroscientific methods. She has contributed to the major theories explaining these disorders with the aim of relating the underlying cognitive causes of these disorders to specific brain systems. She has been awarded Fellowships of both the Royal Society and the British Academy Francesca Happe is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry (King's College London). She studied Experimental Psychology at Oxford, and did her PhD on autism at UCL. Her research interests centre on autism and Asperger Syndrome. She has conducted research into the nature of social understanding in typical development, and 'mind-reading' impairments in autism spectrum conditions. She is also actively engaged in studies of abilities and assets in people with autism, and their relation to detail-focused perceptual and cognitive style. As well as cognitive methods, her research involves functional imaging studies, exploration of acquired brain lesions and, most recently, behaviour genetic methods. She is the author of numerous research papers, and a book on autism for general readers.