Kim Peek


Real-life 'Rain Man'. - video powered by Metacafe

Kim Peek (born November 11, 1951) is a savant with a photographic or eidetic memory and developmental disabilities, resulting from congenital brain abnormalities. He was the inspiration for the character of Raymond Babbit, played by Dustin Hoffman, in the movie Rain Man.

Kim Peek was born with macrocephaly, damage to the cerebellum, and, most importantly, 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.

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 page of text in about 10 seconds (about a book per hour) and, apparently, remembers 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 some 12,000 books from memory. Peek can also do formidable calculations in his head, a skill that serves him well in his day job, where he prepares payroll worksheets. He has worked at a day workshop for adults with disabilities since 1969.

Peek did not walk until the age of four and still walks in a sidelong manner. 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 has scored well below average on general IQ tests; however he has scored very high in some subtests. The mixed results have led to the conclusion that such tests are not an adequate yardstick to measure Peek's abilities. He has an outgoing personality and is not autistic.

Unlike many savants, Peek has shown increasing social skills, perhaps due to the attention he has received as the "real Rain Man". 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 turns 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, comparing a piece of music, for example, 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. The movie caused a number of requests for appearances, which has increased Peek's self-confidence. Barry Morrow has given Kim his Oscar to carry with him and show at these appearances. He enjoys approaching strangers and showing them his talent for calendar calculations by telling them on which day of the week they were born. 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.

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 an "abnormal brain" can do the things that he does.

In the UK a documentary was aired on Channel 5 on February 27, 2006, as part of their Extraordinary People TV series, subtitled "The Real Rain Man". The television program showed Kim Peek reading a book and his father said that he reads the left page of an open book with his left eye and the right page with his right eye. His father also said that he cannot do deductive mathematics.

Kim also made a short appearance on Medical Incredible, a Discovery Health Channel show, and on Discovery Channel where he met with another savant, Daniel Tammet, and gave a short interview.

In addition, he made an appearance on Ripley's Believe it or Not.

Kim has also appeared on CNN, being interviewed by Richard Quest.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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