Howard’s talents were discovered while he was counting peas. He was still a child when, while having lunch at his home in Bournemouth on the British South Coast, he started to complain badly that his brother Duncan “had two more peas” – after a glance at both plates. His parents recounted the peas and noted astounded: Howard was absolutely right.
Howard Potter is not a sorcerer’s apprentice: he is what neuroscientists call a “Savant”, a “knowing one”. There are around 100 gifted savants worldwide acknowledged by science. Their extraordinary abilities are mostly originated by a defect during birth – a faulty connection among neurons in the brain. Savants and their mysterious talents are the most fascinating objects of contemporary brain research.
Savants remember infinite numbers, dates or relations – as natural as we walk or ride a bike. At the age of 6 or 7 they can play the piano or compose like Mozart. They can draw a picture of complex buildings by heart after one look at it or raise two digit numbers by the power of 33 without calculator in seconds. They can recall precisely every single detail of each day of their entire life.
Where does this tremendous knowledge origin from? Is there something of it in all of us? How can our normal brains get access to these dormant abilities: to an unlimited memory, to the creativity of someone like Einstein, or to the ability to read thoughts? According Dr. Darold Treffert, who has been the world leading expert on Savants since the 1960s (and scientific consultant of this series), savants are a unique window to the human brain. “Until we can’t understand the savants”, claims the godfather of savant research, “we can’t understand ourselves.”
“Beautiful Minds – A Voyage into the brain” presents a series of super-talented savants like the “real” Rainman, Kim Peek, the inspiration of Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie “Rainman”, who knows about 12,000 books by heart – word by word; or Matt Savage a 13 year-old piano and composition genius, who released his first CD with own jazz compositions at the age of 7; or Stephen Wiltshire (Part II.), nicknamed the “living camera” due to his unbelievably precise drawing by heart, or Temple Grandin, who looks at the world through the eyes of animals, or the German Calculating Champion Rudiger Gamm, who raises within seconds 56 to the power of 33 without calcualtor or recalls over 160 decimal digits of 62 divided by 167.
“Beautiful Minds – A Voyage Into The Brain” also presents 3D animations based on the real MRI data of our protagonists. The animations were produced by New York specialists exclusively for “Beautiful Minds”. Furthermore, the series was complitely filmed in High Definition (HDTV 720p), with a four times higher resolution than standard TV. Locations of the documentaries include Germany, France, the USA, Australia, Italy, Ireland and the UK.
In the three episodes the stars among the savants and world leading neuroscientist take us on a journey to three outstanding research fields: episode 1 (“Memory Masters”) focuses on the phenomenon of the human memory; episode 2 on creativity and on the striking human talent to think for the first time a “thought” that has never been thought before (“The Einstein Effect”); episode 3 faces the “eternal” question: Are the male and the female brain in fact alike?
“Beautiful Minds – A Voyage Into The Brain” asks leading brain researchers such as Prof. Gerhard Roth of the University Bremen in Germany, who together with Dr. Darold Treffert is our scientific consultant, about the savant syndrome, and thereby tries to find the first answers to the question: Is there a savant in all of us?