Jason Padgett was a furniture salesman from Tacoma, Washington who didn't have a lot of interest in art or academia. Then, in 2002, he was brutally attacked outside a karaoke bar, leaving him with severe concussions. Jason Padgett healed, but he was transformed from the experience.
He began to see the world around him in mathematical structures.
"I see shapes and angles everywhere in real life," Padgett told Live Science in an interview. Fractals of water, geometric shapes, all became apparent to him like "discrete picture frames with a line connecting them, but still at real speed."
He started to understand some profound mathematical concepts, like how there's no such thing as a perfect circle - he says he can see the polygon edges around the circle's radius.
Padgett began drawing fractal patterns and is now in college studying for a new career as a number theorist. His artwork is part of how he figures out equations - like a piece on pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.
The University of Miami has studied Padgett's brain with magnetic resonance imaging. His condition, called acquired savant syndrome, is very rare.
Here is where it gets very sci-fi. Miami researcher Berit Brogaard has been studying Padgett with the question of whether Padgett simply had an extraordinary mind to begin with. Brogaard doesn't think so: "It would be quite a coincidence if he were to have that particular special brain and then have an injury," she said. "And he's not the only [acquired savant]."
Although Padgett now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder that make his day to day life challenging, he says that if given the choice, he wouldn't go back to his old brain. "It's so good, I can't even describe it," he said.
Credit: Live Science