Another Side to Brain Injuries

A personal recollection.

I've been reading more stories recently on another interesting aspect of brain injuries that has triggered some memories and thought for me. It started when I was listening to a story last week on NPR about some people who mysteriously became musical geniuses after receiving a traumatic brain injury (I think it was about music savant syndrome).

I always wondered about a brain injury that happened to me as a child which may have turned me into the autodidact that I've become. No idea how or why I started being a self-learner when I was a child – I taught myself how to paint and draw and could learn just about anything I put my mind to learning – including languages – even before I was a teenager.

The one memory I recall was a very bad brain injury when I was around 8. Still remember that day clearly: Queen Elizabeth was doing a Royal visit to Halifax (1959 I think) and our parents took us down to the corner of our street to watch her go by in a parade (doing that Queen wave…). I was sitting on a 2-foot high lawn fence and I remember flipping backwards and smacking the back of my head full force on the concrete sidewalk! I think they walked me home when that happened and sure don't remember much else after that.

My parents never did anything about it (after all, this was the 50's) and no one knew anything about brain injuries back then anyway. By the time I was in Grade 4 (I was 9), I was learning other languages and drawing up a storm! Dad always reminded me that no one in our family ever had those skills before! And in Grade 5, I was given another IQ test and got approved to skip Grade 6 and go straight to Junior High. But Dad decided to hold me back (much to my lifelong regret!).

This article from the Feb 2013 Popular Science is one of the best summaries I've found on this strange phenomenon.

When Brain Damage Unlocks The Genius Within

Brain damage has unleashed extraordinary talents in a small group of otherwise ordinary individuals. Will science find a way for everyone to tap their inner virtuoso?

By Adam Piore February 19, 2013

Derek Amato stood above the shallow end of the swimming pool and called for his buddy in the Jacuzzi to toss him the football. Then he launched himself through the air, head first, arms outstretched. He figured he could roll onto one shoulder as he snagged the ball, then slide across the water. It was a grave miscalculation. The tips of Amato's fingers brushed the pigskin—then his head slammed into the pool's concrete floor with such bone-jarring force that it felt like an explosion. He pushed to the surface, clapping his hands to his head, convinced that the water streaming down his cheeks was blood gushing from his ears.

At the edge of the pool, Amato collapsed into the arms of his friends, Bill Peterson and Rick Sturm. It was 2006, and the 39-year-old sales trainer was visiting his hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, from Colorado, where he lived. As his two high-school buddies drove Amato to his mother's home, he drifted in and out of consciousness, insisting that he was a professional baseball player late for spring training in Phoenix. Amato's mother rushed him to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed Amato with a severe concussion. They sent him home with instructions to be woken every few hours.

Read the rest of this article by Adam Piore on Popular Science by clicking HERE.

And one woman's amazing post-concussion story: