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No. 136: JUL-AUG 2001

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The Eclipsing Of Innate Talents

The age effect. An idea going the rounds holds that everyone is really a genius but that his or her innate talents have been eclipsed or suppressed. Age is one factor that is blamed. As a child develops, so goes the theory, its brain is bit by bit swamped by the high-level conceptual thinking required for survival in the modern adult world. The child's innate mathematical genius, musical capabilities, and other "low-level" talents are placed on the brain's back burner by the demands of adulthood.

It is a common observation that the young assimilate foreign languages more readily than adults. A less-well-known talent, eidetic imagery (the ability to recall images with photographic precision), is found in some children, but it also usually fades with age. Now, we learn that 8-month-old babies are apparently blessed with perfect pitch, a capability they, too, generally lose as they age.

(Hall, Carl T.; "Learning by Infants Isn't Just Baby Talk," The Brain, February 28, 2001. Cr. J. Cieciel.)

Removal of mental blocks. Sometimes the barriers that eclipse our innate talents are removed by mental disease. The surprising enhancing effect of dementia on some "low-level" talents was mentioned in SF#133.

The same mental barriers also seem to be removed when transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is applied to that part of the brain that seems to bedamaged in idiot savants. This is suggested by experiments in Australia by R. Young and M. Ridding. Applying TMS to the appropriate portion of the brains of normal, adult volunteers, they found that, indeed, their "low-level" calendar-calculating skills improved as did their abilities to copy pictures from memory (as in eidetic imagery?),

(Nowak, Rachel; "Realise Your Potential," New Scientist, p. 7, March 17, 2001.)

From Science Frontiers #136, JUL-AUG 2001. � 2001 William R. Corliss

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