A furniture salesman from Tacoma, Washington, is now a math whiz who can easily visualize mathematical objects—and all it took was a few blows to the head, LiveScience reports. Jason Padget was leaving a karaoke bar in 2002 when two men savagely beat him, leaving him with PTSD, a severe concussion, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. At the same time, Padget has developed incredible math drawing skills and sees a "pixilated" world in which trees "look like an equation translating," he tells CBS This Morning (where he pitched his new book about his transformation, Struck by Genius.)
Padget isn't the first person with acquired savant syndrome—in which people develop brilliant abilities after disease or serious injury—but few others have developed math skills like his. So he underwent MRI scans, which showed serious activity in his brain's left hemisphere (which is key to math skills), particularly the parietal cortex, where the brain integrates data from different senses. So do we all have such skills lying dormant? Probably, according to an expert who oversaw Padget's MRI scans: "It would be quite a coincidence" otherwise, he says. Since at least the 19th century, people who developed new abilities or behaviors after an injury have been teaching scientists about how the brain works, Huffington Post reports.