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“Struck by Genius” by Jason Padgett and co-authored by Maureen Seaberg is the true story of how his brain injury made him a “mathematical marvel” and how Jason was transformed through events beyond his control. Twelve years ago he was a divorced, fun-loving college drop- out. He pumped iron and wore his hair in a spike and never thought of anything mathematical.
One evening, coming out of a karaoke bar, Jason was attacked, and his life changed dramatically. In addition to suffering a bruise to his kidney, he was punched and kicked in the head resulting in a concussion. The scans revealed that sections of Jason’s brain were damaged, which led to overcompensation in other areas of his brain. However, in the days that followed he started seeing strange things. It was determined that he had acquired savant syndrome, which can occur after a brain injury. “When I used the sink and took a shower that morning, I saw lines emanating out perpendicularly from the flow of the water,” he said. Jason started seeing geographical patterns in everything.
And his personality was changing too.
This gregarious young man of 33 no longer wanted to go out in public. Jason would count his steps as he walked. He was obsessed with cleanliness. For the next four years he hung blankets on his door and windows to keep out the light and everything else. He avoided all his old friends, made excuses to his parents and sat thinking only about mathematical issues. He would draw what he was seeing, but without any mathematical training, he had no vocabulary to describe his thoughts. The only person he allowed into his home was his 5-year-old daughter, who thought it was a fun game to squeeze into the cracked door space, scrub her hands of all his feared bacteria and then and only then come hug her father.
Jason’s drawings became quite elaborate during these four years, and he started wanting to talk to someone about his ideas. Eventually he began taking math classes as the community school and along the way learned he was a synesthete. His is reported to be the first documented case of acquired savant syndrome with mathematical synesthesia. His senses were overlapping. When a normal brain looks at a pool of running water only one part of the brain lights up. In Jason’s brain, two areas would light up.
At present Jason is “an aspiring number theorist,” a happily married man, who “draws the grids and fractals he sees synesthetically.” This book with its insights into the workings of the brain is interesting, but at times the narrative is repetitive.
There is a four-page bibliography for those who want to read more on this subject.