The brain is a complex organ. Scientists have been trying to understand it for years. However, they have not been able to solve all the mysteries related to the brain yet. Doctors have often witnessed cases of brain injuries. In such cases, the people noticed some changes in their personality. The majority of the time, these changes were negative, for example, depression, anxiety, etc. In rare case scenarios, some people’s personalities changed for good. They discovered extraordinary abilities that they never possessed before the injury. This condition is also called “acquired savant syndrome.” We bring to you 10 such true stories of how brain damage changed people and their personalities.
1. In a car crash, Scott Mele, suffered a brain injury. After the incident, he visited a craft store with his kids. In the shop, he felt an insatiable desire to paint. Since then, he has created multiple, beautiful paintings. Interestingly, he did not have any artistic interest before.
Scott Mele was a car salesman in California. At the age of 38, he stopped his car at an intersection. Suddenly, a car hit him at 70 miles per hour. He was rushed to the hospital.
The doctors sent him home. Nobody knew that he suffered a brain injury during the accident. Four months later, he woke up feeling lost. He became anxious and depressed.
One day he visited a craft store with his kids. In the store, he felt an insatiable desire to paint. It was the first time in four months that he was able to relate to something. Scott said that it felt like him. He started painting compulsively.
Before the accident, he was horrible at drawing. It is only later he learned that he had “atypical acquired savant syndrome.” Since then, he has displayed his works in multiple exhibitions. He plans to continue to paint in the future as well. (1, 2)
2. To alleviate his tinnitus, Jon Sarkin, a chiropractor, underwent surgery. During surgery, he suffered a cerebellar hemorrhage and a stroke. Doctors informed him that his brain has been permanently changed. Soon, he felt an urgency to make drawings. Today, his artwork has been published in numerous magazines and galleries.
Jon Sarkin suffered from tinnitus in 1988. At that time, he was 35 years old. He decided to undergo surgery to reduce the pain in 1989. During the surgery, he suffered a cerebellar hemorrhage and a subsequent stroke.
When he woke up after the surgery, he was unable to hear from one of his ears,. his vision was distorted, and his balance was skewed. Doctors informed him that his brain had permanently changed as some parts of his brain were removed to alleviate his tinnitus condition.
Jon Sarkin no longer related to his old personality. He felt as if he was a completely different person. Trying to find his new identity, he felt a strong urge to constantly draw. Jon saw these images in his head and felt compelled to draw them.
He started drawing cartoon faces with symbols. Jon has been featured in Vanity Fair, ABC Medical Mysteries, the Discovery Channel documentary Tormented by Genius, and the American Visionary Art Museum. In addition, he has been featured in Art New England in 2011. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Amy Ellis Nutt wrote the book Shadows Bright as Glass about Jon Sarkin. (1, 2)
3. Jason Padgett was attacked and beaten by two men in 2002. He recovered but sustained a brain injury. On returning home, his behavior changed completely. He started obsessively washing his hands. His interest in mathematics grew rapidly, and he soon became a mathematics genius.
Jason Padgett was out with his friends in 2002. Suddenly, two men attacked him and started beating him outside a karaoke bar. They hit his head repeatedly. He felt as if everything was spinning. Immediately, his friends took him to hospital.
The doctors informed him that he had a concussion and a bleeding kidney. They gave him a shot of pain medication. He went back home the same day.
After brain injury, his behavior changed rapidly. Jason developed an obsessive-compulsive disorder. He became afraid of the outside world, had an irrational fear of germs, and washed his hands repeatedly. His vision also changed.
According to Jason, “Everything that was curved looked like it was slightly pixelated. Water coming down the drain didn’t look like it was a smooth, flowing thing anymore. It looked like these little, tangent lines.”
One day he saw a webpage on fractals. Fractals are symbols formed from complex mathematical equations. He became interested and made multiple drawings of them. Impressed by his drawings, a physicist asked him to enroll in a college, and Jason did.
Because of these visions, Jason began to think about complex questions in relation to mathematics and physics. Today, he has drawn more than thousands of fractals. He sells his paintings on his website. Jason published a book Struck by Genius, sharing his own journey of becoming a mathematical genius. (1, 2)
4. As a young child, Daniel Tammet suffered epileptic seizures. This affected his brain immensely. Just after the incident, he started seeing numbers as images. He had an exceptional memory and won many memory championships. He broke the European record in 2004, for reciting the value of pi from memory.
Daniel Tammet was born in England in 1979. As a young child, he suffered epileptic seizures. He soon recovered with the help of medical treatment. However, his world was completely changed. He began to see and feel numbers. In his mind, every digit from zero to 10,000 had a shape with a unique color and texture.
He did not need a calculator for multiplying big digits. He just visualized numbers in their unique shapes, and then melded them together to create a new image for the solution. When asked to multiply 53 by 131, he described the solution with images, “Fifty-three, which is round, very round and larger at the bottom.
Then you’ve got another number, 131, which is longer a little bit like an hourglass. And there’s a space that’s created in between. That shape is the solution – 6,943!”
He broke the European record for reciting the value of pi from memory in 2004. Someone challenged Daniel to learn the Icelandic language within 7 days. The Icelandic language is considered to be one of the most difficult languages in the world.
5. Ben Mcmahon, an Australian man, learned the Mandarin language at school but never became fluent in the language. After a car accident in 2015, he went into a coma. He woke up after two weeks. Strangely, the only language he could speak was Mandarin.
Ben Mcmahon is an Australian man. In high school, he tried learning the Mandarin language. He learned a bit but never became fluent in the language. Many years later, he was riding a car in 2015. His car got hit by a truck. He was admitted to the hospital.
For one week, he was in a coma. When he woke up, he was frustrated to find that whenever he spoke, no one was able to understand him. Only one person understood his words, and that was a Chinese nurse.
Astonishingly, Ben found out that Mandarin was the only language he could speak. In an interview, Ben shared his experience, “After the accident, my internal monologue, the voice that kind of speaks to you in your head, just switched.
And so from that moment onwards, it just became so much more natural and so much more fluent. There was no first thinking English then translating to Chinese and speaking. It was just straight Chinese.”
After this, he took classes to learn English and be able to communicate with his family members. His love for Chinese culture increased tremendously after the accident. He also got an opportunity to be on one of the most popular Chinese date shows, If You Are the One. (1, 2)