Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Neuropsychology case study subject as celebrity: Jill Price and Daniel Tammet compared

Both have or had their own publicist/PR representative and also a literary agent.

Both have written first books that are autobiographies which include description of their own (claimed, actual) cognitive exceptionalities.

Both have been the subject of at least one published neuropsychology journal paper as a case study.

Both have been questionably identified as being the first case of their type described in the scientific literature (Price as the first case of hyperthymesitc syndrome and Tammet claimed to be unique as the first known autistic savant who has the social and verbal ability to explain his own mind, and it has also been argued that he is a rare and newly discovered type of synaesthete because his brain scans were found to be not typical of those of synaesthetes).

Both have been written about in a journal paper by a professor researcher who has made many mass media appearances (Price described by Prof. James McGaugh and Tammet described by Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen)

Both have been the subject of papers that were published in the science journal Neurocase.

Both have been discussed as savant or savant-like synaesthetes with autistic features in this journal paper:
Simner, Julia, Mayo, Neil, Spiller, Mary-Jane (2009) A foundation for savantism? Visuo-spatial synaesthetes present with cognitive benefits. Cortex. Volume 45, issue 10, November-December 2009, Pages 1246-1260.

Both have been referred to in journal papers and scientific articles with an anonymous name consisting of initials - Price's name being AJ and Tammet's name being DT (Tammet has also been given the name "Arithmos" in one brief paper, but this name didn't catch on.)

Both have been identified by researchers as having some superior cognitive abilities and also some deficits.

Both have fame based at least partly on their superior memory performances; Tammet's Pi recitiation and Price's hyperthymestic syndrome / superior autobiographical memory demonstrated to researchers.

Both have been the subject of scientific debate about the basis of their memory superiorities, with one faction of researchers arguing that repetitive self-directed training is the cause, while other researchers have argued that a developmental difference in brain structure is the cause.

Both have been identified by a synaesthesia researcher as a synaesthete, while this was not noted by other researchers.

Both have been the subject of an article in New Scientist magazine.

Both have been featured or interviewed in reports on the TV shows US 60 Minutes, Australian 60 Minutes and the Australian science series Catalyst (Tammet in the Brainman "documentary" screened in two parts in 2006 under the banner of Catalyst).

Both have been featured in many mass media reports in print and the electronic media, in a number of countries.

Both have been written about by journalist Joshua Foer.

Both have been discussed as a memory case study (directly or indirectly) by researcher K. Anders Ericsson.

Both have past intellectual achievements that have perhaps been understated (Tammet having performed very well twice in the World Memory Championship while this was not mentioned in his autobiography, and Price described as a mediocre academic achiever despite having a degree).

Both have been described as obsessive.

Both have achieved extreme and interesting results in tests of face memory (Tammet performing at an elite level in a test of matching faces and names in the World Memory Championship, but later found by a researcher to have scored at such a low level in a test of face memory that he was judged to be impaired in this area. Price scoring at an impaired level in the Warrington Test of face memory, while also getting a perfect score in the Benton Face Test of face perception (apparently perception of facial expressions)).

Both found by researchers to perform very well in "digit span" testing (Price scoring 15, "near ceiling" at the "Digit Span subtest of WAIS-R", and Tammet scoring 11.5 in some "visual digit span test" in one study and performing with "a high degree of accuracy" in a "Digit span task" in another study).

Both have been regarded with skepticism by some researchers and laypersons.


For the relevant Daniel Tammet references see the references in this post:

Daniel Tammet - The Boy with the Incredible Story

For the relevant Jill Price references see my list:

Famous synaesthetes or possible synesthetes: a list of amazing people with references.

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