Jason Padgett suffered severe brain damage after a savage beating outside a karaoke bar in 2002. After the assault, the furniture salesman from Tacoma, Washington, developed into a mathematical genius.
Before his injury, Padgett had very little interest in math or sciences. By his own admission, he was a partier and jock who never studied math past pre-algebra. After coming out of a club, he was jumped by several men who began kicking him in the head. He was diagnosed with a severe concussion. After his attack, he developed PTSD from the incident, as well as extreme social anxiety. His vision appears pixelated and he sees moving objects as a series of still pictures.
Soon Padgett developed the ability to intuitively deduce answers to complex mathematical problems. By drawing triangles within circles, he realized there can be no perfect circle.
"I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life. It's just really beautiful," Padgett told Live Science.
Mathematicians have often talked about the ability to see numbers and watch equations unfold in their heads. While most people attempt to crunch numbers one-by-one, the most mathematically-gifted individuals watch equations act out in their minds.
Researchers studied Padget's brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to create a 3D map of the inner structure of the organ. This study was led by Berit Brogaard, a philosophy professor from the University of Miami. The team wanted to know what led Padget to develop the synesthesia, which allows one sense to flow into another.
Rarely, victims of brain damage may suddenly and inexplicably develop world-class skills. The acquired savant syndrome usually affects musical or artistic abilities. It is rare for patients to develop advanced skills in mathematics from such an injury.
Study of Padgett's brain has revealed exactly which parts of the brain were affected. Researchers believe this remarkable ability to intuitively deduce complex mathematical functions may be inherent in every human being.
Only 15 to 25 cases of Acquired savant syndrome have ever been discussed in medical journals.
Researchers and healthcare workers are not sure whether the abilities Padgett developed after his attack are temporary or permanent. Because physical changes were recorded in his brain, it is likely Padgett will retain his remarkable new ability.
Although he is enjoying his new-found mathematical skills, Padgett still has challenges with symptoms from PTSD.
He lately published a book called Struck by Genius, detailing his experiences with his acquired mathematical abilities.