6 People Who Gained Amazing Skills from Brain Injuries

In real life, people don't suffer freaky events like getting struck by lightning or getting part of their brain removed and then suddenly find themselves with new superpowers, like heat vision or flight. However, people do apparently suffer freaky events and then gain the ability to do art.

It's a poorly understood phenomenon, but according to the experts who've studied them, these people aren't just messing with us.

#6. Man Has Mystery Illness, Gains Super Memory and Painting Powers

Quick: Picture in your mind what your neighborhood looked like when you were 4 years old. Even better, try to draw a picture of it, in fine detail. Hell, most of us couldn't do the latter with a room we saw five minutes ago. To unlock that ability, apparently all we need is a severe, life-threatening fever to jar it loose.

"It's so strange. He just paints pictures of houses burning down with a child giggling in the foreground."

When 30-something Italian immigrant Franco Magnani arrived in San Francisco in the 1960s, he came down with just such a fever -- to the point that he sometimes became delirious and had seizures. In the aftermath, Magnani started having insanely vivid dreams/memories about his childhood hometown of Pontito, Italy. The man hadn't visited the place in more than 30 years, but his dreams were intense and filled with detail, as if his seizures had somehow surfaced a bunch of old image files off his brain's hard drive, perfectly intact.

Magnani became so engulfed by the memories that he started to draw and eventually paint them. If the below paintings look like random pictures of streets and alleys you could see on anybody's wall, you have to see them next to a photo of the real scene to understand why they're remarkable. The photo is on the left. The painting on the right was painted from a three-decade-old memory from early childhood:

Via Francomagnani.com

Can we call "Photoshop" on a painting?

Again, Magnani did not have that photo to work from -- that was taken later, probably by somebody trying to find out if he was full of shit. And keep in mind, painting at all was totally out of character for him, given that he had been a cook in Italy and a woodworker when he came to San Francisco. Yet even though he'd never so much as held a brush in his life, he was suddenly overcome with an urge to paint these scenes, with as much detail as his memory provided him. Yes, there are variations in the pics -- for instance when he paints the view from his old bedroom window, he's remembering it being zoomed out a bit:

Via Exploratorium.edu
Photo, again on the left.

What you're seeing is the product of what had become an obsession. According to one of his friends, Magnani was known to leave his favorite bar mid-drink if he got a memory that he wanted to paint. Later, when word of Magnani's story got out, doctors said that what he had was probably "temporal lobe epilepsy," which is known to sometimes create an obsessive personality in sufferers.

Via Francomagnani.com
Photo on left.

When Magnani's work was eventually shown in art galleries, it was put up next to photo comparisons of Pontito taken from the same angles as his paintings. You can see the result for yourself.

Via Francomagnani.com

And to think, all he had to do was have himself a fever and a couple of seizures. We're betting any aspiring artist will take that deal over three years of putting up with stuck-up assholes at art schools.

#5. Man Gets Ass Kicked, Begins to See and Draw Fractals

According to a professor at the University of St. Louis, Jason Padgett has the world's only case of beatdown-induced genius. And it all started when some muggers kicked his ass so hard, they turned him into a math and art phenomenon.

In 2002, Padgett was just minding his business, leaving a restaurant after a date, when two dudes rudely decided they were going to use his head like a freaking pinata. After the beating, they took his money and ran.

Via Jason_padgett.fineartamerica.com
"Why yes, we would hit a man with glasses."

At the hospital they told him he had a concussion, and to get some rest. But when Padgett went back home, he immediately went on the longest drugless acid trip of all freaking time. On sunny days, the little bit of light that bounced off a car's window would suddenly explode into an array of triangles. Every time an object moved, it left strange patterns behind. The edges of clouds and liquids became spiraling lines. The dude thought he was either going crazy or being haunted by the ghost of geometry. Either way, he stayed mostly inside his house for three freaking years.

Via Neurobonkers.com
This is what he sees all the time. All the time.

Well, two MRIs, two metal plates in his head and a few "Oh, God, what's happening to me?"s later, Padgett decided he'd go ahead and start drawing the shapes he saw. And hey, they looked pretty freaking sweet.

Via Fineartamerica.com

Padgett eventually started to get out of the house more, and someone who saw his art noticed that the drawings looked kind of mathy, so they suggested that Padgett take math classes at the community college so he could learn how to describe them.

Via Fineartamerica.com
"... and then if you turn it upside down, it spells 'BOOBLESS.'"

Padgett had always sucked at math, needing to cheat just to get by in high school, but hey, he'd never had any art training whatsoever either, so why not, right? At school, he now found he kicked ass in math, too, and even learned that the art he was making was called a fractal, which is a shape that contains its same shape many times inside itself. It's the Inception of geometry, is what we're saying.

Via Consciousness.arizona.edu
Or what Terence McKenna saw whenever he closed his eyes.

Since taking those math classes, life's been pretty good to Padgett. He won best newcomer at an international art competition and is widely acknowledged as the only person able to hand-draw fractals (for a tidy profit, of course!). He also has advanced the fields of math and physics with his intuitive understanding of those weird repeating shapes. He even discovered that Einstein's E=mc?² is a fractal.

Via Neurobonkers.com

The theory is that the blows Padgett took to the skull affected the areas of the brain that control object boundary formation, and this somehow unlocked his visual math superpowers. Well, whatever it is, it's certainly not the worst side effect of an ass-kicking ever.

#4. Guy Gets Struck by Lightning, Suddenly Is Great on the Piano

With the skies gray and impending-thunderstorm-like, orthopedic surgeon Tony Cicoria got the idea to call his dear old mom, so he stopped by a payphone and gave her a ring. But no sooner had he finished his conversation that he got the shock of his life -- literally. Like a creepy-but-true urban legend, lightning struck the payphone, came out of the phone's receiver and struck poor Cicoria right in the face, killing him.

"That's what you get for being a considerate son!" - Zeus

Well, at least it seemed to everyone like he was dead. Including to Cicoria himself. He recalls thinking, "Oh, shit. I'm dead," before being slammed back to life.

Via Doctorshobbies.com
Tony Cicoria, seen here thoroughly enjoying not being dead.

Like most people who've had a bajillion volts go through their bodies, Cicoria had a few minor complaints after the incident. For a week or two, he was feeling sluggish and having trouble remembering things. But those symptoms went away, and that's when things got weird. Out of the blue, Cicoria got this sudden, insatiable urge to listen to piano music.

He'd listen to it everywhere, all the time. The dude had never had an interest in piano music, as he much preferred rock music to Rachmaninoff and wasn't even mildly the artsy type. But, you might say, so what? He had a life-changing experience, and he decided he liked different music afterward. But then he was hearing music in his head -- new, original music like he never had before. Never stopping. Always there.

Via wskg.org
"Flash before my eyyyyes ... now, it's time to dieee ..."

So, despite not really knowing how to play the piano and not knowing how to read or write music, Cicoria got himself a piano and promptly began to play everything he heard in his head. He'd even wake up at four in the morning and play until he had to go do his orthopedic surgery thing, which seems a little dangerous to us considering his line of work, but whatever.

We're pretty sure he became a Heroes character before it was canceled.

Soon after his lightning strike, he was composing his first song called, you guessed it, "The Lightning Sonata." Here he is, playing some of it in a show hosted by a clearly stoned hippie:

Since his zapping, Cicoria's been studied by prominent Columbia University brainologist Oliver Sachs, who featured him in a book and in a PBS documentary about how music works in the brain. Despite several examinations, the exact medical explanation for Cicoria's condition still eludes the men with the MRI machines. They do say that his jolt and his out-of-body experience may have caused some cerebral cortex anomalies, among others, but really they're mostly giving a fairly big shrug on the subject.

Regardless, Cicoria's musical career has really taken off, as the formerly tone-confused doctor has been featured in magazines and TV shows, and has had several recitals where he's played the classics and his own work. It's clear now that Zeus didn't want to hurt Cicoria. He just wanted to hear himself some piano.

"Know any Skynyrd?"

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