Kim Peek

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Kim Peek
Kim Peek
Born November 11, 1951 (1951-11-11) (age 57)
Salt Lake City, Utah

Kim Peek (born November 11, 1951) is a prodigious savant. He has a photographic or eidetic memory, but also developmental disabilities, possibly resulting from congenital brain abnormalities. He was the inspiration for the character of Raymond Babbit, played by Dustin Hoffman, in the movie Rain Man. He is not autistic and likely has FG syndrome.


[edit] Biography

Kim Peek was born with macrocephaly, damage to the cerebellum, and, perhaps most important, agenesis of the corpus callosum, a condition in which the bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain is missing; in Peek's case, secondary connectors such as the anterior commissure are also missing. There is speculation that his neurons make other connections in the absence of a corpus callosum, which results in an increased memory capacity.[1] According to Peek's father, Fran, Peek was able to memorize things from the age of 16-20 months. He read books, memorized them, and then placed them upside down on the shelf to show that he had finished reading them, a practice he still maintains. He reads a book in about an hour and remembers approximately 98.7% of everything he has read, memorizing vast amounts of information in subjects ranging from history and literature, geography, and numbers to sports, music, and dates. He can recall the content of some 12,000 books from memory.

Peek resides in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[2]

[edit] Mobility

Peek did not walk until the age of four and still walks in a sidelong manner.[1] He cannot button up his shirt and has difficulty with other ordinary motor skills, presumably due to his damaged cerebellum, which normally coordinates motor activities. In psychological testing, Peek, with an IQ of 73, has scored below average on general IQ tests.

Fran and Kim Peek, courtesy Darold A. Treffert, MD, and Wisconsin Medical Society.

[edit] Increasing ability

Unlike many savants, Peek has shown increasing social skills, perhaps due to the attention that has come with being perceived as the "real Rain Man". His father says that his sense of humor has been emerging since 2004 or so. Also, he has developed well beyond the stage of being a mere repository of vast amounts of information; his skills at associating information he remembers are at least one of the signs of creativity. He still displays difficulty with abstractions such as interpreting the meanings of proverbs or metaphorical terms of speech.

Although never a musical prodigy, Peek's musical abilities as an adult are receiving more notice now that he has started to study the piano. He apparently remembers music he heard decades ago and can play it on the piano, to the extent permitted by his limited physical dexterity. He is able to give running spoken commentary on the music as he plays, for example, comparing a piece of music to other music he has heard. In listening to recordings he can distinguish which instruments play which part and is adept at guessing the composers of new music by comparing the music to the many thousands of music samples in his memory.

In 1984, script writer Barry Morrow met Peek in Arlington, Texas; the result of the meeting was the 1988 movie Rain Man. The character of Raymond Babbit, although inspired by Peek, was portrayed as having autism. Dustin Hoffman, who played Babbit, met Peek and other savants to get an understanding of their nature and to play the role with accuracy (see Method acting). The movie caused a number of requests for appearances, which has increased Peek's self-confidence. Barry Morrow has given Kim his Oscar statuette to carry with him and show at these appearances. They call it the "Most Loved Oscar Statue" since it's been held by more people than any other Oscar statue. Kim also enjoys approaching strangers and showing them his talent for calendar calculations by telling them on which day of the week they were born and what news items were on the front page of major newspapers. Peek has also appeared on television. He travels with his father, who takes care of him and performs many motor tasks that Peek finds difficult.[1]

[edit] Scientific investigation

In 2004, NASA scientists examined Peek with a series of tests including computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. The intent was to create a three-dimensional view of his brain structure and to compare the images to MRI scans done in 1988. These are the first tentative approaches in using new and non-invasive technology to discover just how a person with a brain like Kim can do the things that he does.[3]

A 2008 study concluded that Peek probably has FG syndrome, a rare genetic syndrome linked to the X chromosome which causes physical anomalies such as hypotonia (low muscle tone) and macrocephaly (abnormally large head).[4]

[edit] Appearances

  • Inside the Rain Man, a Discovery Channel documentary
  • Everything You Need To Know - The Brain, a Discovery Channel documentary
  • Human Computer, a Discovery Channel documentary
  • The Real Rain Man, a Discovery Health Channel documentary premiered on November 26, 2006
  • Superhuman, "Genius" episode, a Science Channel special premiered on November 7, 2008

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b c Wisconsin Medical Society. Savant Syndrome.
  2. ^ Theatrically Released Feature Films with Major Characters who are Latter-day Saints. Last modified 2005-09-23. Accessed 2007-07-15.
  3. ^ "NASA Studying 'Rain Man's' Brain",, November 8, 2004.
  4. ^ Opitz JM, Smith JF, Santoro L (2008). "The FG syndromes (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man 305450): perspective in 2008". Adv Pediatr 55: 123–70. doi:10.1016/j.yapd.2008.07.014. PMID 19048730. 
  5. ^ Blog and video

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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