Darold Treffert, a physician who has studied savantism for many years, has chronicled the ways that people with no artistic interest or talent can suddenly develop a passion for painting or music after experiencing head trauma or other types of brain insult.

Acquired savantism—the name for this phenomenon—appears to activate less-used brain circuitry that allows processing of images or sounds in new ways. Treffert writes about acquired savantism in the August issue of Scientific American in Accidental Genius.

In 2011, Treffert gave a talk on acquired savantism and other forms of the condition as part of the Tenth Annual International Bioethics Forum at the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute in Madison Wisconsin, which explored issues related to the mind and brain.