Jason Padgett had been savagely attacked outside a karaoke bar in 2002, leaving him with a severe concussion and post traumatic stress disorder. A common man, working as a furniture salesman in Tacoma, Washington, the incident has changed his life forever.
The Ron Howard hit movie A Beautiful Mind was based on the life of a forgotten man, someone who changed mathematical history for the entire world. John Nash was gifted in life with that keen sense of higher thinking, but his life also revolved around schizophrenia and other delusional aspect that haunted his life forever.
Padgett’s life changed forever on that fateful night in 2002 and in the end his ability actually exceeds that of John Nash. Padgett is a mathematical genius who can see the world through a unique and highly rare geometrical lens.
Padgett lived a normal life in Tacoma until that fateful day, he had little interest in academics, and today he has developed the ability to visualize complex mathematical physics and objects intuitively.
The injury at the karaoke bar that night, while devastating, seems to have unlocked part of the brain that makes everything in this world appear to have mathematical structure.
“I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life” says Padgett; he goes on to explain “from the geometry of a rainbow, to the fractals in water spiraling down a drain”. Padgett concluded in his interview with Live Science “It’s just really beautiful”.
Padgett, who just published his memoirs called “Struck by Genius” outlines the rarity of this acquired savant syndrome, in which a normal person develops superb abilities after a severe injury or disease.
Several people throughout history have developed outstanding musical or artistic abilities, but few have ever acquired mathematical abilities like Padgett.
Researchers have taken Padgett’s brain apart, pars say, and figured out which part was shocked to allow for his savant skills. The findings suggest that the same skills lie in all human brains but sadly the ability lays dormant throughout our entire lives.
Padgett has described his earlier years in life, as he hadn’t progressed much beyond that of pre-algebra in his overall math studies.
He explained “I cheated on everything, and I never cracked a book”. Padgett remembers being knocked out for a split second on that night and, he says he saw a bright flash of light before him.
“If you think of vision as the brain taking pictures all the time and smoothing them into a video; everything has a pixilated look”, said Padgett.
With his new vision came an astounding mathematical drawing ability, he started sketching circles made of overlapping triangles, which helped him understand the concept of pi, the ration of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.
After his injury, Padgett sat at times drawing complex geometrical shapes without any true understanding as to why. One day while Padgett sat drawing in a local mall, a Physicist spotted him making these rare and unique drawings.
That meeting changed Padgett’s life as today he is a sophomore in college and an aspiring number theorist.
After testing at the University of Miami and taking what is known as ‘functional magnetic resonance imaging” or “fMRI” as it’s known; scientists are now closer to understanding his savant skills and the synesthesia that allows him to perceive mathematical formulas as geometric figures (Synesthesia is a rare phenomenon in which one sense bleeds into another in the brain).
Only 15 to 25 cases of “acquired savant syndrome” has ever been described through the history of medical studies, said Broggard, a leading doctor at UM.
Scientists at the university don’t know whether the changes in Padgett’s brain are permanent, as the depth to understand the change is only being known to the world of human kind today.
The ability to find ‘acquired savant’ abilities is most likely within each and every one of us. Throughout the study of this rare ability, many that acquired it often receive it due to head injuries, mental disease etc. but recent studies conclude that ‘zapping’ the brains of normal people has brought about temporary abilities to perform unique mathematical and artistic skills in humans.
Padgett noted that having savant skills has come with some harsh realities in his life, almost a trade-off of sorts. Padgett has developed severe post-traumatic stress disorder along with obsessive-compulsive disorder since the onset of his unique abilities.
He has also noted that he finds it difficult to appear in public, almost a strange sense of fret or sense of fear amongst people.
Padgett has said if he could change his life to his old self, there is no way he would give up his new savant abilities. In an interview with Live Science, Padgett concluded by saying “It’s so good, I can’t even describe it”.