SCIENCE: NASA Studying 'Rain Man's' Brain

conjur

No Lifer
Jun 7, 2001
58,686
3
0
http://story.news.yahoo.com/ne...ap_on_sc/nasa_rain_man
SALT LAKE CITY - NASA (news - web sites) scientists are studying autistic savant Kim Peek, hoping that technology used to study the effects of space travel on the brain will help explain his mental capabilities.

Last week, researchers had Peek ? who was the basis for Dustin Hoffman's character in the 1988 film "Rain Man" ? undergo a series of tests including computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, the results of which will be melded to create a three-dimensional look at his brain structure.

The researchers want to compare a series of MRI images taken in 1988 by Dr. Dan Christensen, Peek's neuropsychiatrist at the University of Utah, to see what has since changed within his brain.

Not only are Peek's brain and his abilities unique, noted Richard D. Boyle, director of the California center performing the scans, but that he seems to be getting smarter in his specialty areas as he ages is unexpected.

The 53-year-old Peek is called a "mega-savant" because he is a genius in about 15 different subjects, from history and literature and geography to numbers, sports, music and dates. But he also is severely limited in other ways, like not being able to find the silverware drawer at home or dressing himself.

"The goal is to measure what happens in Kim's brain when he expresses things and when he thinks about them," said his father, Fran.

He came to the attention of NASA researchers at the Center for Bioinformatics Space Life Sciences at the NASA-AMES Research Center when he spoke in late October at a Rotary Club in central California.

When Kim Peek was born, doctors found a water blister on the right side of his skull, similar to hydrocephalus. Later tests showed his brain hemispheres are not separated, forming a single, large "data storage" area.

It is likely that is why Peek has been able to memorize more than 9,000 books, his father said.

But he has lagged in other areas; his motor skills developed more slowly than those of his peers.

Fran Peek doesn't need the test results to know much has changed for his son in the last 16 years.

He was a shy young man with few social skills when the movie propelled him to public notice. But now, after speaking to more than two million people over the years, his father says he become calmer and is more at ease speaking in front of people.

He also no longer reads only nonfiction, Fran Peek said, but has dabbled with some fiction, such as books by Stephen King, because that is what so many people talk about.

When he's home in Utah, Peek spends afternoons at the Salt Lake City Public Library poring over books, even memorizing phone books and the Cole's address directory.

Kim Peek was the model author Barrow Morrow used for the original "Rain Man" script and screenplay, but the final product retained only a small part of the original story.
Stories like this just fascinate the heck out of me. It's amazing how intricate and fragile our brains are but also how much knowledge they can store.
 

kranky

Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
21,014
137
106
That story reminded me of one of the most fascinating books I've ever read - "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat" by Oliver Sacks. It's a collection of case studies about people who have bizarre brain dysfunctions. One person has no memory beyond the last five minutes. Another deals with twins who are both autistic (like Rain Man) and would toss out prime numbers to one another for the sheer joy of it, because the other one would simply appreciate it. The title comes from a man who cannot recognize objects, and once grasped the top of his wife's head because he thought it was his hat.

Robin Williams' character in "Awakenings" was based on the author.

The book makes you appreciate the immense complexity that makes up a brain. I highly recommend this book.

 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
72,425
6,086
126
Tells U we have a long way up we can go in our evolution. It may also tell us something about the difference between Republicans who more extremely right hemisphere dominant and pick a President that can't tie his shoes as opposed to a more holistic feminine dual wielding brain approach typical of the left.
 

cquark

Golden Member
Apr 4, 2004
1,741
0
0
Interesting. Thanks for the post, Conjur. Let me second the recommendation for Oliver Sacks' books; I've found all the ones that I read fascination examinations of the human brain.
 

Wag

Diamond Member
Jul 21, 2000
8,286
4
81
If they send him out far enough he can watch Wapner "real time".
 

winr

Diamond Member
Feb 17, 2001
6,039
37
91
I worked with a guy that unloaded trucks for a living.
You could ask hima math question like 24567 x 294673 + 248596 - 37584 = ?
He would go umm and then give you an answer.
The first time I asked him I couldnt even remember what the figures were.
So I wrote down figures and asked again and used a calculator and he would answer correctly each time.
He was real cool, he would be pulling a loaded pallet jack behind him and singing out loud "dun dun dudun dun dudun dun dun dun dun"

Thanks for the article, that is very interesting and brought back some fond memorys.

:)
 

Train

Lifer
Jun 22, 2000
13,861
68
91
www.bing.com
Originally posted by: winr
I worked with a guy that unloaded trucks for a living.
You could ask hima math question like 24567 x 294673 + 248596 - 37584 = ?
He would go umm and then give you an answer.
The first time I asked him I couldnt even remember what the figures were.
So I wrote down figures and asked again and used a calculator and he would answer correctly each time.
He was real cool, he would be pulling a loaded pallet jack behind him and singing out loud "dun dun dudun dun dudun dun dun dun dun"

Thanks for the article, that is very interesting and brought back some fond memorys.

:)
ya there was a kid in I knew in highschool like that, I was impressed when he did real complex conversions, like 4.269 square miles to square centimeters, in like 2 seconds, he even drilled down to a few decimal places. But if he saw a penny on the ground he would go diving for it, he couldnt comprehend the value of money. I wonder whathes doing these days.
 

Dissipate

Diamond Member
Jan 17, 2004
6,815
0
0
Originally posted by: conjur
http://story.news.yahoo.com/ne...ap_on_sc/nasa_rain_man
SALT LAKE CITY - NASA (news - web sites) scientists are studying autistic savant Kim Peek, hoping that technology used to study the effects of space travel on the brain will help explain his mental capabilities.

Last week, researchers had Peek ? who was the basis for Dustin Hoffman's character in the 1988 film "Rain Man" ? undergo a series of tests including computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, the results of which will be melded to create a three-dimensional look at his brain structure.

The researchers want to compare a series of MRI images taken in 1988 by Dr. Dan Christensen, Peek's neuropsychiatrist at the University of Utah, to see what has since changed within his brain.

Not only are Peek's brain and his abilities unique, noted Richard D. Boyle, director of the California center performing the scans, but that he seems to be getting smarter in his specialty areas as he ages is unexpected.

The 53-year-old Peek is called a "mega-savant" because he is a genius in about 15 different subjects, from history and literature and geography to numbers, sports, music and dates. But he also is severely limited in other ways, like not being able to find the silverware drawer at home or dressing himself.

"The goal is to measure what happens in Kim's brain when he expresses things and when he thinks about them," said his father, Fran.

He came to the attention of NASA researchers at the Center for Bioinformatics Space Life Sciences at the NASA-AMES Research Center when he spoke in late October at a Rotary Club in central California.

When Kim Peek was born, doctors found a water blister on the right side of his skull, similar to hydrocephalus. Later tests showed his brain hemispheres are not separated, forming a single, large "data storage" area.

It is likely that is why Peek has been able to memorize more than 9,000 books, his father said.

But he has lagged in other areas; his motor skills developed more slowly than those of his peers.

Fran Peek doesn't need the test results to know much has changed for his son in the last 16 years.

He was a shy young man with few social skills when the movie propelled him to public notice. But now, after speaking to more than two million people over the years, his father says he become calmer and is more at ease speaking in front of people.

He also no longer reads only nonfiction, Fran Peek said, but has dabbled with some fiction, such as books by Stephen King, because that is what so many people talk about.

When he's home in Utah, Peek spends afternoons at the Salt Lake City Public Library poring over books, even memorizing phone books and the Cole's address directory.

Kim Peek was the model author Barrow Morrow used for the original "Rain Man" script and screenplay, but the final product retained only a small part of the original story.
Stories like this just fascinate the heck out of me. It's amazing how intricate and fragile our brains are but also how much knowledge they can store.

Human brain capacity is estimated to be in the many terrabytes. The trick is retaining it, which is what Peek appears to be able to do.