Everyone is born with a personal set of natural talents and skills that generally becomes stronger over time with conditioning and practice. However, a small number of individuals in the past reportedly have gained new, astonishing talents after experiencing head trauma from various accidents and illnesses.
Acquired savant syndrome is the unexpected and sudden appearance of almost superhuman skills. With this mental condition, some people suddenly gain extraordinary capabilities following a brain injury or damage to the central nervous system. Acquired savants, such as the few individuals listed below, have proven to be enigmatic. Over the years, they’ve shown a broad range of remarkable abilities, such as vivid memory, mathematical genius, and artistic excellence.
1. Orlando Serrell
A well-documented example of acquired savant syndrome is the case of Orlando Serrell.
In the late summer of 1979, 10-year-old Serrell was hit with a baseball on the left side of his head during a neighborhood game.
After the headache from the trauma has gone, he discovered an extraordinary ability he didn’t have before the incident. He can name any day of the week for any random date at a lightning-fast speed.
As a result of the accident, Serrell had developed hyperthymestic syndrome. The condition allowed him to remember and recite an extensive index of autobiographical events from memory. With astonishing accuracy, he can recall the exact weather and precisely what he was doing on any calendar date following the pivotal baseball game that changed him forever.
2. Jason Padgett
Jason Padgett, former futon-salesman and college dropout, was attacked by two muggers as he was leaving a karaoke bar one night in 2002. The incident left him with a severe concussion.
After his recovery, he began exhibiting remarkable mathematical abilities, even though his education never went beyond pre-algebra. He also started seeing intricate geometric patterns and numerical formulas in his everyday surroundings. To capture and study the patterns, he started drawing them. He now works as a number theorist and is famous for creating complex fractal drawings that visually represent mathematical relationships accurately and artistically.
3. Anthony Cicoria
In 1994, Anthony “Tony” Cicoria was struck by lightning while talking to his mother from a payphone in upstate New York. A nurse performed CPR and revived him. He exhibited little to no unusual brain activity after extensive hospital tests were run. However, Cicoria was not entirely unaffected by the accident. When he woke up, he felt a sudden, intense urge to listen to classical piano music.
Formally an orthopedic surgeon, he was never particularly artistic, and he never showed interest in instrumental music before that fateful day in the phone booth. Cicoria began studying but found it difficult to concentrate on reading sheet music. The melodies in his head always distracted him. Additionally, he realized quickly that these melodies were of his own creation and completely original.
To this day, Cicoria is still creating his own songs and even released a CD in 2008.
4. Derek Amato
Derek Amato is yet another man with surprising musical abilities as a result of a head injury.
During a game of catch in 2006, Amato dove into the shallow end of a swimming pool, hitting his head on the concrete floor below. He lost some of his memory and hearing following the unfortunate mishap. But he gained something new in return — the gift of music. Never having played or read music before, Amato recovered from his brain injury with the extraordinary skill of playing the piano with ease. After sitting down at a friend’s keyboard, he played flawlessly for six hours on his first try.
5. Jon Sarkin
In 1989, chiropractor Jon Sarkin suffered a massive stroke due to complications from surgery. Never exhibiting any artistic flair before the incident, Sorkin awoke with an unforeseen obsession with drawing.
The neurological effects of the stroke resulted in a condition called “sudden artistic output,” a prodigious artistic talent that blooms in very few brain patients. His drawings, paintings, and other creative works are popular among art experts and patrons across the globe.
The brain is such a complex organ that it very well may never be fully understood. Although each of these acquired savants experienced head trauma, their brains compensated with some truly amazing skills. Every one of their fascinating stories gives off an air of mystery that breathes life into a much-debated question — Is there an untapped genius living inside all of us?