Meet Kim Peek: The Real Rain Man

This is the fascinating story of Kim Peek, the man who was the inspiration for the "Rain Man" character played by Dustin Hoffman in the award-winning film by the same title. Kim is famous for being a savant with an extremely good memory and the ability to solve arithmetic problems almost instantaneously. The downside is a set of motor and cognitive disabilities that make him dependent on his father's permanent care.

In this documentary he meets a number of brain and mind professionals (including V.S. Ramachandran), all of whom evaluate different aspects of his condition, revealing pieces to the puzzle that is Kim.

One of the things that originally impressed me the most, as you'll see, was his ability to read the two pages of a book simultaneously, one with each eye working independently of the other. That makes a lot of sense once you find out he "suffers" from agenesis of the corpus callosum (the absence of the the information superhighway that connects the two brain hemispheres). Comparing his unique cognitive traits, as well as his cerebral structure, with its counterpart in average people can potentially become a building block to our understanding of the human brain.

Given the piece of information above, I would personally love to test what I think might be a revealing finding: put an eye patch on, say, his right eye, and have him read some new piece of information with his left; then switch the eye patch and have him read a question directly related to what he just learned with the other eye and see whether he knows the answer (you don't want to ask him the question out loud and ruin the control!). I think both his possible success or failure in responding to this question (or set of questions) could be greatly enlightening about how his brain works. Maybe I should shoot Rama an e-mail with this idea...












I met Kim years ago, when I was in high school, when the then new graphic calculators (Texas Instruments I-82 or something like that, were almost required in calculus class). This piece of technology allowed my friends and I to ask Kim to perform some simple arithmetic calculations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) with some pretty big numbers (maybe up to 4 digits each), and his accuracy completely baffled us... he is the real deal...
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