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How a Futon Salesman Crazy About Partying Turned Into a Math Genius After Suffering a Severe Blow to the Head

Jason Padgett underwent brain scans and learned that he had access to parts of the brain that most humans don't.
Cover Image Source: YouTube/TODAY
Cover Image Source: YouTube/TODAY

A man's whole life turned upside down overnight after he suffered a serious blow to the head. Jason Padgett from Alaska might be a math savant now, but that wasn't the case all his life, BBC reported.

Padgett was initially a futon salesman loved partying. Arithmetic was nowhere on his radar.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by  JESHOOTS.com
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by JESHOOTS.com

“I was very shallow,” Padgett shared. “Life rotated around girls, partying, drinking, waking up with a hangover and then going out and chasing girls and going out to bars again.”

For him, math had no use in the real world. 

On September 13, 2002, an assault changed everything, BBC reported. Padgett was with his friends when he was attacked by two assailants outside a karaoke bar. The pepetrators robbed him and left him disoriented. 

“I heard as much as felt this deep, low-pitched thud as the first guy ran up behind me and smashed me in the back of the head,” he remembered about the attack, BBC reported. “And I saw this puff of white light just like someone took a picture. The next thing I knew I was on my knees and everything was spinning and I didn’t know where I was or how I got there.”


Padgett reached a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and a bleeding kidney, due to the assault. He was given medication and sent home.

At his house, Padgett soon began to experience fallout from the assault. Traumatic brain injury can cause significant behavioral changes and also bring on obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, in certain individuals, BBC reported.

In Padgett's case, he developed a fear of the outside world. The situation became so precarious that he was leaving his home only to stock up on food. 

“I just remember nailing blankets and towels over all the windows in the house… I remember actually using this spray foam and gluing the front door shut,” Padgett recalled, BBC reported. He had also developed OCD and became afraid of germs.

Padgett shared a daughter with his former partner, who was also affected by her father's condition.

“When she would come over, I would obsessively wash my hands and clean,” he recalled. “The very first thing I would want to do is get her shoes off, get her into clean clothes, wash her hands.”


Padgett was also seeing things differently. “Everything that was curved looked like it was slightly pixelated,” he explained. “Water coming down the drain didn’t look like it was a smooth, flowing thing anymore, it looked like these little tangent lines.”

For Padgett, his reality seemed like a video game: his surroundings were filled with geometric shapes and graphs.

Padgett's daily life was slowly overtaken by math, the NY Post reported.

“I watch the cream stirred into the brew. The perfect spiral is an important shape to me. It’s a fractal. Suddenly, it’s not just my morning cup of joe, it’s geometry speaking to me,” Padgett shared.

All these changes in his life caused Padgett to turn to math and physics to get some answers, BBC reported. He began to search the internet for theories related to mathematics. In his pursuit, he struck a chord with fractals.

Fractals is a difficult concept, which at its core, is a complex structure that seems to be comprised of snowflakes. The deeper a person goes into the structure, the more snowflakes they will encounter. 

Padgett's daughter helped him in his pursuit to explain the difficult concept. One day she asked how TV worked, and everything clicked for him.

“When you’re looking at a TV screen and you see a circle, it’s really not a circle,” he said.

“It’s made with rectangles or squares and, if you look close, the edge of the circle is really a zig-zag. You can take those pixels and cut them in half and cut them in half and you get closer and closer to a perfect circle but you never actually reach one because you can keep cutting the pixels in half forever, so the resolution gets better but you never have a perfect circle.”

Padgett then began to draw the concepts he was trying to understand on paper, taking them everywhere with him. The drawings helped him to communicate to others what he was seeing.

A physicist approached Padgett and stated that his drawings looked mathematical.


Padgett explained that through the drawing, he was trying to explain the discrete structure of space-time based on Planck length (a tiny unit of measurement developed by physicist Max Planck) and quantum black holes, BBC reported.

Seeing the detailing in Padgett's drawing, the physicist suggested he join a course in the community college. The course helped Padgett understand the subject he had fallen in love with more deeply.

The next three years changed his life even more as he got psychological help for his OCD and also met his now wife. Padgett came across another savant with extraordinary numerical abilities through a television program.

“I would always describe that math was shapes, not numbers and that was the first time I’d heard anybody but I talk about what numbers looked like,” Padgett said.

He the  got in touch with Berit Brogaard, a cognitive neuroscientist now at the University of Miami. Padgett shared what had happened and how his world just seemed different after the assault.

Brogaard diagnosed him with synaesthesia, a condition in which a cross-wiring occurs in the brain and the senses get all mixed up, BBC reported. The condition causes connections in the brain that are not present in most humans. These connections allow Padgett to view the world differently. 

Padgett underwent brain scans, which determined that he had something most humans don't.

“They found that I had access to parts of the brain that we don’t have conscious access to and also the visual cortex was working in conjunction with the part of the brain that does mathematics, which obviously makes sense,” said Padgett.

Padgett's case was not the first time someone had shown exceptional qualities after a physical blow to their body, the NY Post reported. Orlando Serrell was struck by a baseball and then, as a result, gained the ability to tell the day of the week of any given date. Dr. Anthony Cicoria began to expertly play piano after he was struck by lightning.

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