What autistic people can teach us about memory

[Added February 2004]
A small percentage of people with autism have some remarkable abilities: it is the
so called Savant Syndrome.They show mostly artistic abilities (play music or paint).The reason fo these abilities may be a normal right brain hemisphere that compensates for a damaged left hemisphere .
But what about the extraordinary memory that such people show(this phenomenon was depicted in the film Rain man)?The almost limitless memory of savant
people seems to be of the kind called procedural.This is the kind of implicit memory that we use when we learn to do something like riding a bicycle.
This memory is the last to be lost by people with Alzheimer.
Again, it seems that the damage that produces the autism has destroyed the explicit semantic memory, leaving intact this “low-level” memory.
Although the autistic people don’t know the meanings of what they learn,
they are able to remember a lot of things almost without effort. Some autistic savants
become able to describe how they do it. Their account is fascinating and may
be of great help in understanding how the brain works.
For example see the case of Daniel Tammet
and Temple Grandin.

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