Dazzled by the mystery of mentalism : the cognitive neuroscience of mental athletes
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Neural processing bymental athletes (MAs) has received attention fromNeuroscience community, with several publications examining superior memorizers (Maguire et al., 2003; Bor et al., 2008), lighting calculators (Pesenti et al., 2001; Fehr et al., 2010), and savants (Treffert, 2009). In this opinion, we contend that the presumption of extraordinary abilities inMAs is fundamentally flawed because their demonstrations involve tricks that regular individuals can learn. Since, these tricks easily escape the scrutiny of investigators, a high standard of rigor should be applied to research on MAs. MAs seem to demonstrate abilities—for example, short-term memory and mental calculations—that by far exceed those of an average person. MAs’ performance is indeed impressive: for instance, some of them multiply two 20-digits numbers without annotating and the other memorize thousands of digits of p.