Friday, October 21, 2011

Some interesting quotes from Daniel Tammet and the National Society for Epilepsy from 2004

“Because I am not autistic, people expect me to be more accountable than I want to be”

“I can no more explain what I can do and the limits of my ability than anyone else. I do not need to prove myself.”

The time has come when Daniel Tammet really does need to explain how he does his memory feats, because many people now believe that his impressive past memory performances have been the result of the same type of training that other memory competition champions and memory record holders use, and are now skeptical of the idea that Tammet is neurologically special in some way.

Source of these quotes:

Learn these 500 digits of pi by heart. That is about 2% of what this man can remember.
by Stefanie March
The Times
March 13th 2004
Section: Home news, p.5.
Accession number 7EH3642629466.

I accessed this article through the Australian/New Zealand Reference Centre at EBSCOhost.

At the end of this article is given a link to the National Society for Epilepsy's page about Tammet's Pi recitation: This link is now dead, but a record of it's content in June 2004 can be accessed through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine The old webpage for the event by the National Society for Epilepsy (NSE) is notable because it is another source that asserts that Tammet was one of the subjects studied in the "Routes to Remembering" study of 2002:

"Daniel was part of a research study on prodigious mental ability at London's Institute of Neurology. The data appeared in the new year 2003 edition of the prestigious neuro-scientific magazine 'Nature'."

Although it seems likely that this information was taken from the same source as a similar claim by Dr Darold Treffert at the website of the
Wisconsin Medical Society which is currently published on the internet with the original source cited by Treffert as (an old version of) Tammet's own Optimnem website, the info once published by the NSE about Tammet's participation in the study is given as a direct statement of fact, and not as a quote from a second source. It is very clear that any confidentiality about the subjects of the "Routes to Remembering " study of 2002 by Maguire, Valentine, Wilding and Kapur was broken many years ago with regard to the study subject Daniel Tammet (formerly Daniel Corney), so I see no ethical reason why the authors of that study should feel constrained about openly revealing the potentially scientifically important research data that they collected in 2002 regarding the study subject Daniel Tammet.

The article by Stefanie Marsh in The Times is a breathless article promoting Tammet’s Pi recitation to be held the next day, a quite lengthy and detailed article considering it is about an event not yet performed. A target figure of 22,500 for the number of decimal places expected for Tammet’s Pi recitation is given. There certainly must have been a lot of psychological pressure on Tammet to perform as planned. The venue is given as the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford University.

March explains that Tamet’s mnemonic ability is “abnormal” and due to him being “one of only a handful of “acquired savants”” as a result of epilepsy at age 3. Tammet claims to be not autistic, but the journalist claims he exhibits some “symptoms”. There is discussion of Tammet’s supposed peculiarities of thought and behaviour. “Epilepsy and schizophrenia both run in the family.” After this quote there is a description of visual experiences which could be interpreted as schizophrenia hallucinations or as synaesthesia, but which I don’t think are typical of either.

Tammet does not appear to like being asked to account for how he does his memory feats: “Because I am not autistic, people expect me to be more accountable than I want to be” “I can no more explain what I can do and the limits of my ability than anyone else. I do not need to prove myself.”

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