rachid-filali

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Interview with the famous Professor Darold Treffert

mai 13th, 2014

By Rachid Filali

 -Dr. Darold Treffert You are one of the greatest specialists in psychiatry, there are researchers who claim the discovery of the drugs stimulate the evolution of intelligence and memory, is this possible in your opinion?

-  There are some drugs that can increase memory at least on a temporary basis.  Stimulants of various sorts, including something as weak as caffeine can do so on a temporary basis.

 

-The islands of geniusis one of the most important books that try to answer very difficult questions, such as the secret of genius, which, however, remains a mystery and vague like a metaphysical issue, is not it?

-  There is nothing really metaphysical or mystical about genius.  Intelligence and creativity are distributed in humans on the usual bell-shaped curve.  Some persons have very low intelligence from a variety of factors–injury, genetics, lack of education opportunities etc.  Most of us fall in the mid-range of intelligence and some persons–prodigy, genius, profoundly gifted–are at the upper end of the spectrum.  Some of that distribution at the high end is genetic.  This is based on brain function obviously and we are trying to better understand the exact brain

chemistry, dynamics, pathways, circuits involved.  It is complex, but not metaphysical.  We just need better tools to better unravel those factors.   We are slowly getting there now that we can examine the brain at work (functional imaging) instead of only looking at brain structure.

Part of the problem in understanding the brain better, as opposed to the heart, liver or kidney, for example is that the brain sits well protected in a closed box (skull) which cannot be ’scoped’ or easily accessed for biopsy, so  we need to depend on imaging.

But there is nothing mysterious about it in a metaphysical way.   The complexity simply exceeds our tools at present.

-Is it true, Dr. Darold Treffert that the Arabs gave to humanity a little geniuses compared to other peoples?

-  I doubt that the incidence of genius is lower among arabs that other populations or cultures.  I expect it would be the same.  But those cases may not have come to attention as much as in the Western world.  I expect the incidence of savant syndrome to be the same in Arab nations as elsewhere.  Maybe having Islands of Genius in Arabic will bring more cases to my attention.  I anticipate that will happen although the language difference is a barrier to bringing those cases to the professional literature.

 -There is a very strange paradox, where we find autistic patients suffer from mental retardation, at the same time possess supernatural powers, how do you explain that?

-  Savant syndrome is a rare but remarkable condition in which some persons with developmental disabilities, such as autism, or with other brain disease or injury, have some remarkable ‘islands of genius’ that stand in stark contrast to over-all handicap.  In these  persons whether that way from birth, or from disease or injury later in life, there is recruitment of undamaged tissue (generally left brain) with re-wiring to that undamaged area and release of dormant potential until then buried.  I think we all have such dormant islands, with the skills and abilities distributed among us in the usual bell shaped curve as above.  So we are not all little Mozart’s or Picasso’s.  But we all do have some dormant abilities distributed in the bell shaped curve.  So savant syndrome can be explained as a process in which some undamaged area of the brain is recruited, rewired to compensate for damage elsewhere (often left hemisphere).  See chapters 3 and 4 in Islands of genius.

-Despite impressive progress in the field of medical research and technology, but we could not yet locate intelligence in the human brain, note that some of the shocks in the head, caused the emergence of extraordinary talents of some people (Savant Syndrome)?

- ”intelligence”, memory and creativity involve many areas of the brain; there is no one seat of intelligence, memory or creativity.  They involve intricate circuitry working in concert throughout the brain.  Beyond that, there is not only one “intelligence’ (IQ) but rather we are a series of intelligences (plural)   The shocks to the head is Snyder’s work and it is an application of (5) above.  With use of electrical current one suppresses one area of the brain (left anterior lobe generally) which allows some right brain  potential (until then buried) to surface.  But that does not work in all persons and the extent to which ‘intelligence’ surfaces depends on the bell shaped curve above, and our capacity to capture and measure that.

-The wonderful book islands of geniusIs translated into Arabic or not? Will publish another book about the same this important subject in the future?

-  Fortunately Island of Genius is translated now into Arabic and I look forward to conversations now with persons, such as yourself, and other professionals or parents, from your part of the world and culture.  The language is a barrier but now with some internet translation capacity I have been able to ‘read’ some arabic in my language.  I am doing some other publishing, but not in book form at present.  I have some articles coming out in Scientific American and I think there may be Arabic versions of that magazine.  I am sure the book will put me in touch with some persons in your countries, as it already has with our correspondence.

-You say that inside every one of us “Rain Man” and we do not know just how to take advantage of our capabilities correctly, in your opinion, Dr. Darold Treffert , Is it possible to turn ordinary human into a genius, after following certain educational training?

-  Savant abilities are more right brain than left brain.  In the U.S. and other English speaking countries left brain function (logical, sequential thinking and language skills) make us largely a left brain society.  And that’s OK.  It serves us well. But right brain function (music, art,

abstract thinking and meditation, for example are not as valued or practiced.  What I am saying is that we all do have some dormant capacities which in our culture at least tend to be less valued and it is accessing those dormant capacities that I think we can do much better if we work at it.  As above, we are not all hidden ‘geniuses or little Mozarts or Einsteins, but we do have dormant capacity and the acquired savant especially proves that.   Genius resides at the far end of the bell shaped curve; there are only so many  worldwide based on a  number of contributing factors, some of which are simply genetic.  While we may not be able to make everyone a genius, through education and effort most of us can improve our memories, our ’smarts’ and our creativity.  Working at it helps although effort may not be totally the answer as below.

-Thomas Edison said that genius is 99 per cent of the effort and the rest is talent, but there are some people born talented, like Mozart  ?

-  The question of nature (genetic endowment of talent and intelligence) v. nurture (simply working at it) is an age old argument.  Some argue that give me an ordinary person and with extreme dedication and effort that person can become a genius;  Not so although that would be nice.

True genius depends on a basic genetic endowment of innate skills and ability (nature).  Certainly that person can ‘train the talent’ to great heights by work and effort.  But genius cannot be simple created by efforts.  Some people like Mozart are born with more than the usual innate skills, whether music, art or math, for example along the lines of the bell shaped curve.  I don’t think genius is 99 percent effort.  I think the proportion of nature v. nurture is closer together than that and innate talent represents a generous portion of every genius.  That proportion can  certainly be worked with an brought to an even higher level but the innate requirement of genius is just that–innate.

I hope that answers your questions.  I think you will find answers to most of those in the book, in your language.  I really look forward now to hearing about more cases from your part of the world to see what differences, if any, exist between Arabic savants and non-Arabic.

One more thing.  Did you find the DVD helpful as included with the book?

Darold A. Treffert, M.D.

 





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