In October 2006, Derek Amato suffered a concussion after diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool. He lost his 35 percent of his hearing and some of his memory that day, but what he gained is remarkable: he is now a musical genius.
"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," Amato writes in a 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."
Dr. Andrew Reeves of the Mayo Clinic said that Amato has a rare condition called acquired savant syndrome. Acquired savant syndrome is a condition where “dormant savant skills emerge, sometimes at the prodigious level, after a brain injury or disease…where few such skills were evident before.” Reeves said that the injury must have changed Amato’s brain chemistry. And he may be the only man in the world to have acquired genius-level musical talent after getting a concussion.
This past August, Amato told his story in a TED Talk. He said that, though he experiences headaches and light sensitivity as a result of the injury, he wouldn’t change his journey for anything. When asked what he would do if he suddenly lost his musical gift, he said that he would still be equally grateful for the experience.
"I've had seven years [with this syndrome]. Not too many people get to see this much life in seven years. I've been pretty lucky," he told HuffPost Live. "Hey, if it goes away, I've had seven beautiful years to enjoy it."
Amato is a father of three. He lives in Colorado and, when he’s not making music, he enjoys fly fishing and philanthropy. Watch video from Amato’s inspirational TED Talk below: