Derek Amato, Denver Man, Becomes Musical Genius After Head Injury

Man Becomes Musical Genius After Concussion

After enduring a traumatic brain injury in 2006, a man lost part of his hearing but acquired musical genius, TODAY reports.

Derek Amato is now a professional piano player, but he can't read music and has never been taught how to play the instrument. In fact, until a few years ago, Amato had only dabbled in some drum and guitar playing -- and he wasn't very good at either.

But a serious accident soon changed all that.

In October 2006, Amato suffered a serious concussion after hitting his head in a swimming pool.

According to a blog post he wrote for the Wisconsin Medical Society, he lost 35 percent of his hearing and suffered some memory loss.

But when he visited with a friend a few days after the accident, Amato said he felt inexplicably compelled to sit down at the keyboard.

"It was one of those moments when you just know. It was just drawing me to it," he told TODAY.

Placing his fingers on the keys, Amato began to play -- dexterously, beautifully.

"As I shut my eyes, I found these black and white structures moving from left to right, which in fact would represent in my mind, a fluid and continuous stream of musical notation," he wrote in the blog post.

"My fingers began to scale the piano keys as if I had played all of my life. I can't explain the feeling of awe that overcame my entire being, although I can tell you the expression on my friend's face was enough to put us both in tears."

According to Dr. Andrew Reeves of the Mayo Clinic, Amato is one of the few people in the world who has Acquired Savant Syndrome.

"The head injury changed his brain chemistry," said Reeves, adding that Amato's musical genius -- that combines music, visual and motor abilities -- is not only rare but also "very unique." According to a Science Channel documentary, Amato might be the only man in the world to have acquired such an ability.

For Amato, the concussion has been both a curse and a gift. He now suffers from severe migraines and a sensitivity to fluorescent lights that sometimes causes him to collapse.

He also constantly sees music streaming in front of his eyes.

Yet, he insists that he would not have it any other way.

"I think the headaches and the loss of hearing -- those things are sort of the price tag on this particular gift and I'm okay with that," he said.

Currently working on his second album, Amato said he hopes both his music and his story will inspire others.

"I'm convinced it's all for a reason and I think it's my job to do it right," he said.

For more on Derek Amato's story, watch this video from the Science Channel:

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