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Savant Syndrome: The Dual Identity



“Am I born for mediocrity?” Ralph thought as his wife did the chores of the day. “Will I continue doing a common citizen’s job all my life? And forget to achieve my dreams?”
 He looked at his wife, bored. Would she continue to be the same boring wife, doting for him? No challenges in life? His wife had a small-simple dream. A small happy home in their hometown, where the people respected them for their work. But that was what Ralph hadn’t dreamt of! He wanted the world. And he had lost in his game.
“If the world doesn’t remember me, then my existence as a human is useless,” he muttered. “I have got to do something, before the philosopher in me wakes up and kills the desire-”
The wisest of the philosophers’ has said, ‘Enjoy life without delving into the complexities of life, and you will lead a successful and happy life. The more you reason, the more you seek and desire, the less peace you have. The purpose of life is to seek peace, not forgo it.’
Ralph had something in his devilish mind. He needed to execute his plan.
A few days later
It was raining as the car crashed into the pole. There was a lone person inside the car. He had received injuries on his head and was unconscious. Ambulance siren was heard, and soon the patient was transferred to a hospital. The patient was identified to be Ralph, and his wife was promptly informed by the police.
Ralph’s wife came rushing to see her husband. She waited, after the doctors had done their job in the operation theatre. Ralph was later shifted to the ICU. His wife silently cried, whispering prayers all the while.
After many hours, Ralph did not regain consciousness. It seemed Ralph had slipped into coma. There was however hope in his wife, he would wake up and all would be well like before.
For the next few days, Ralph situation looked bleak. His wife stayed beside him all the while. She doted on him, replacing the nurse on duty to take care of him. Her husband was her life, and she felt she couldn’t live without him. As long as he breathed, she would breathe. “God, you willn’t take one life; I will make sure to make it two!”
Maybe it was her love and care or her extreme threat to God that Ralph suddenly returned to consciousness for a brief period. He seemed to recognize his wife but before he could say a word, he was unconscious again.
With time, Ralph regained consciousness and showed some signs of recovery. Sometimes he would be in a period of lucid interval remembering everyone and everything like the back of his hand. And most of the times he was fazed, unable to remember who he was. He had neurological deficit, with severe headache keeping him in agony.
It was in those moments Ralph to ease his suffering began writing verses or complex equations.
Several months later
There are people who are born wise. Some acquire wisdom through hard work. And then some acquire wisdom by accident. And some acquire superhuman abilities without wisdom. Some just become a genius after a head injury. There have been strange cases where people acquire phenomenal mathematical, artistic and musical skills after brain injury. Such incidences though rare are not unheard of. There should be some means for being a genius, and that’s how God grants to those lucky few. The condition is medically described as Savant Syndrome. Those who suffer from this condition show certain abilities significantly better than the average human, despite suffering from mental disabilities. 
There have been Savants like Alonzo Clemons and AnthonyCicoria who have made a mark for themselves in the world. Alonzo developed a photographic memory, after a childhood injury to his brain. He could sculpt accurately any animal even if he had seen for a very brief time. Anthony Circoria started playing the piano after he had recovered from being struck by lightning. Jason Padgett, another acquired Savant could see fractals after he was hit by two goons on the back of his head. Fractals can be presumed to be the smallest geometrical units which make up the larger objects.  
It was the accident that changed his whole life. Ralph at times would fail to recognize his wife or family. He would look at them as if they were strangers.
 An MRI of his brain was done to observe structural defects.  There had been some deep changes within him. There was something abnormal in the parietal lobe of his brain. The right hemisphere had been damaged while the left hemisphere neurons had proliferated to a considerable extent. A PET scan was done to further study his brain. The left (usually dominant) parietal lobe is involved with language processing and mathematical computation skills. While the right parietal lobe is concerned with non-verbal memory. Neurons do not divide in an adult to form new cells, but they do proliferate to form new connections. If the connections happen to be between neurons that control two different senses in the body, then it gives rise to a condition known as Synesthesia, where one stimulus evokes two (or more) senses. For example, words could be seen as colours or heard as music. It has been hypothesized that, the damaged neurons release neurotransmitters which provokes the proliferation of their counterpart neurons.
Ralph brain was hyperactive in the left parietal lobe which made him excel in literary and mathematical skills. But sadly, he would neglect his own self. He would sometimes shave only half of his face, and looked extremely weird. He would be disoriented and forget where he was going. He would lose his way when he went out.
Ralph would work on a literary piece of work. He could see emotions and words, so penning them was easy. He would write amazing poems and work of literature. After that he would experience some acute emotional headaches, and all of a sudden, he would find himself alone- a stranger to his self. He didn’t remember, how he was there in the first place. At times when Ralph wouldn’t recognize anyone, he would be doing complex mathematical equations, and making imaginary figures on the walls.
Ralph would frequently visit Dr. Somerset, a neurologist, who meticulously studied his condition.
“Hello Ralph!” said Doctor Somerset. “I hope all is going well with you.”
“Yes doctor, just feeling lazy and a bit crazy. My world has turned upside down ever since the car crash. I don’t remember many things I do. I frequently have headaches and fall into a dream-like state and then when I seem to recover from my slumber, I am at a different place doing something else I have no damn clue of!”
Ralph was stupefied with all his changes in the brain. He was not what he was. He sensed he had forgotten many things in life to which he once was attached to. What Ralph didn’t know that there had been within his mind, a struggle for supremacy between two of his acquired special abilities!
In case of deep emotional crisis, Ralph would switch from one character to another. Sometimes he was a writer and sometimes he was a mathematician-scientist. While as a writer, he couldn’t recall the events he did as a mathematician-scientist, and vice-versa.
Before the accident, Ralph had a connection between the two mediocre abilities of literature and science which made him just another average individual who was interested in since and literature. But after the accident, his two abilities evolved to create their own identities and set his self apart. There was no link to make them realize they belonged to the same individual. When he was a writer, he would wonder why there were so many equations written on the board. There was a conflict going on within Ralph’s mind – who would own the body? Would the writer win, or the scientist win? For each of them wanted to win over and have control over Ralph’s body. It was not a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where there were two individuals who had conflict over their own nature – the good, and the bad. But it was a case of existence and dominance of two abilities, trying to get the individual identity out of proliferation of neurons.
“How come so many stray papers are in my study table?” Ralph would say, as a scientist. Ralph didn’t recognize the woman who was in front of him. The mathematician-scientist within him was cold and too obsessed with his works.
“I am your wife,” she said. “We promised so many things together.” Ralph looked at the woman nonchalantly. “I don’t know you, woman,” he said. “I may have a wife and she isn’t you! You must have been mistaken.”
The woman burst into tears. “It’s the horrible accident that makes you not know us. You keep forgetting everyone. I don’t know when you will get well.” she cried.
The writer was Ralph, and so was the scientist! Till the point of accident, both had the same past. However, the mathematician-scientist had become oblivious of the family he had. Maybe that’s how scientists really are! They have very little family life, and the scientist character had exaggerated after the accident. It was a battle of individual identity and existence. Who would win was a matter of the strength of the mind, and interest of Ralph. Would the writer succeed? He had the power of emotions to influence people. Would the scientist win, who had the power to save or destroy all on earth?
Ralph wondered had had happened to him. He remembered things before the accident. But then there was something blank, he couldn’t remember. Period of haziness. Memory deficit.  Only some emotional experience could remind him of who he was.
“Ralph. Wake up, you can’t be dreaming all day.” He remembered his dad’s voice. That was a long time ago. Ralph was in the company of people he didn’t know. Then he saw his wife standing in front of him.
“I am not dreaming,” he snapped. “I know what I am doing.” He reached for his wife but fell down.
“Dear Ralph, I know you don’t remember most of the things. But you need proper care, and consultation.”
The Writer Ralph could see the words form images in his mind.
“Literature is what I am!” the writer Ralph said. “Literature may be full of lies, and these lies make me, yet I intend to live this life of lies and keep people happy. Isn’t a lie that gives peace better than ugly truth that erodes peace and is detrimental to the sanctity of global happiness?”
Ralph swooned.
“We need to immediately take you to the doctor,” said his wife, anxiously.
“He behaves strangely. Sometimes, he sits and writes complex mathematical calculations. At other times he writes flowing verses. And he doesn’t remember his mathematical works when he is writing poetry and vice-versa.”
 “You have a split mind, Ralph. We need to connect the commissural fibres, so that you can stay as one person.” Dr. Somerset said examining him after listening to his wife’s account, and then doing a repeat MRI.
Ralph was frightened when, it was mentioned he had to undergo a brain surgery to cure his hallucinations.
“See, it is a battle between your self – two identities trying to establish their control. We have to remove one of your identities by removing of the proliferated neurons. It’s up to you what you want to have. The area that glows significantly on the PET scan, is what makes you a good writer and mathematician.” said Dr. Somerset. “In this war of preserving the identity, someone has to lose.”
“Ralph, we need to do this together.” Dr. Somerset told him. “You can’t fight yourself alone. You need to listen to your inner voice. There is something beyond abilities and disabilities which controls the conscious and subconscious.”
“Doctor, both the writer and the mathematician-scientist are a part of me. They have lot in common – say a common history, but yet they won’t remain one. There is something I need to know. It has been easy to say I have split minds, but have you ever heard of having split bodies? The olfactory neurons are regenerated each day. If the Scientist Ralph works hard, in two years’ time isn’t it possible to create the complete brain of a human being? And then all he will need is a separate body for the writer.”
“Ralph, your thoughts are truly amazing, but not feasible to present day science.” Dr. Somerset said. “Can I ask you something personal?”
“Yes, doctor.”
“Wasn’t the accident deliberate?”
Ralph was grim. “Somethings are better left unsaid.”
That night Ralph spent in isolation writing his will, at the end of which he wrote:
I don’t know what will become of me. There is a conflict going on within me. I have no idea what will become of me. There are two selves residing in me, each trying to express out. Each have its own character, and way of living. My past will be used as a platform for the existence of my abilities. And that way, I will be losing myself and my family for work. Will this give me peace and happiness? I have no idea!
I was tired of my family life, and wanted to end my life. But what I didn’t know, I will be awakening two monsters in me who were once my dream!

Savant Syndrome: The Dual Identity Reviewed by Polymath on 12:10 am Rating: 5

1 comment:

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