The Math Genius: Jason Padgett + Heather Berlin
When Jason Padgett was attacked by muggers outside a karaoke club ten years ago, he thought he was going to die. Repeatedly kicked in the head, his brain trauma caused him to develop a mysterious mathematical gift. Neuroscientist Heather Berlin, who studies war-related PTSD and brain trauma seeks to understand how this college drop-out became a math genius overnight.
No one sees the world as Jason Padgett does. Water pours from the faucet in crystalline patterns, numbers call to mind distinct geometric shapes, and intricate fractal patterns emerge from the movement of tree branches, revealing the intrinsic mathematical designs hidden in the objects around us. Yet Padgett wasn’t born this way. Twelve years ago, he had never made it past pre-algebra. But a violent mugging forever altered the way his brain works, giving him unique gifts. His ability to understand math and physics skyrocketed, and he developed the astonishing ability to draw the complex geometric shapes he saw everywhere. His stunning, mathematically precise artwork illustrates his intuitive understanding of complex mathematics.
The first documented case of acquired savant syndrome with mathematical synesthesia, Padgett is a medical marvel. His biography, Struck by Genius recounts how he overcame huge setbacks and embraced his new mind. His singular story reveals the wondrous potential of the human brain. Along the way he fell in love, found joy in numbers, and spent plenty of time having his head examined.
Heather Berlin is a cognitive neuroscientist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She explores the complex interactions of the human brain and mind with the goal of contributing to improved treatment and prevention of impulsive and compulsive psychiatric disorders. She is also interested in the neural basis of consciousness and dynamic unconscious processes. Berlin is a Visiting Scholar at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Vassar College, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)/University of Zurich, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dr. Berlin is passionate about public outreach and science communication. She is a presenter on the Discovery Channel and has appeared on the History Channel, BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4, StarTalk Radio, and The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oxford and Master of Public Health from Harvard University. This is her second appearance at Brainwave.