Here’s a fascinating story with great implications for human intelligence. Derrick Amato was a man in early middle age when he had an accident which literally changed his life. He dove into the shallow end of a swimming pool, and the resulting concussion completely rewired his brain. He always had an interest in music and could play guitar and drums, but after the accident he found that he could play the piano, a completely new skill for him. Now he is a professional musician who plays eight different instruments. Doctors have explained the oddity by suggesting that different parts of his brain have reconfigured themselves and are now able to communicate more efficiently, granting Derrick access to previously unknown abilities. There are other cases of people developing special abilities after accidents, and they are considered a special case of savant syndrome. Some abilities may be lost even as others are acquired. There are several videos of Derrick on Youtube, including of him playing the piano. I might point out that some people don’t think he’s very good, and others think he’s a fake. You can decide whether you think he is a “musical genius” or not.
The entire concept of neuroplasticity has expanded greatly in the last decade, and many scientists now believe that intelligence and mental ability are far more malleable than once assumed. I am in firm agreement with this idea, as I have outlined in many of my articles and books, including Extraordinary Mind. There are a range of scientific opinions on this, from those quite hostile to the entire field, through to proponents like Norman Doidge (The Brain That Changes Itself) and David Shenk (The Genius in all of Us – You can see a link to my video review of the book at the bottom of this page).
The idea of having a changeable brain is well worth thinking about. Are you holding yourself back from trying new things because you believe the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”?
Here’s a video interview with Derrick which features some of his piano playing.
Marcus’ review of David Shenk’s The Genius in All of Us.
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