When Padgett suffered a traumatic brain injury after a violent mugging, his sense of perception was profoundly altered. Overnight, his life as a fun-loving salesman changed into one dominated by unprompted geometric visualizations and the unexpected insights of newfound mathematical brilliance.
The effect of the author’s injury was as complex as it was sudden. In addition to seeing crystalline and fractal patterns as part of the properties of objects and spaces around him, he developed a paralyzing fear of being among people and germs. Further debilitated by a series of personal losses, Padgett spent years in isolation, spending all his time investigating the concepts that suddenly held his mind hostage: math and science but also medical theories that might explain his neurological transformation. Based on his research, he suspected he had developed a form of synesthesia—a condition in which sensations are perceived in unusual ways, such as seeing letters or numbers as inseparable from specific colors—as a result of his injury. He was right. Padgett was officially diagnosed as having acquired savant syndrome and mathematical synesthesia, making him the only person with this diagnosis in the world. Throughout his transformation and recovery, the author compulsively drew pictures of the shapes that materialized and refracted before his eyes. These drawings, stunning in their complexity and also important to the author as a therapeutic method, have since been recognized internationally. Also important is that advanced technologies have provided images of his brain in unprecedented detail, resulting in a broader understanding of synesthesia as it affects the brain’s chemistry. To put his remarkable story in writing, he partnered with Seaberg, a fellow synesthete who writes about synesthesia for Psychology Today. The result is a beautiful, inspiring and intimate account of Padgett's struggles and breakthroughs.
An exquisite insider’s look into the mysteries of consciousness.