Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Struck by Genius

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | May 1, 2014 9:31 AM

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, May 1, 2014:


The human brain is full of mysteries and potential which we are just beginning to understand. On occasion we get glimpses into its workings in unexpected ways.  Such is the case with Jason Padgett, a young man more interested in partying and bungee jumping than in anything academic. But after he suffered severe brain trauma and injury in a mugging, Jason developed a profound ability in math and physics. His brain now pictured the world for him in radically different ways. He began to draw incredibly complex geometrical patterns illustrating mathematical concepts he saw in the world around him. Some feel that he is living proof of the  genius potential exists in us all.


Maureen Seaberg

His story is told in a new book titled, Struck by Genius, How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel. Today on Smart Talk our guest will be the co-author of the book, Maureen Seaberg. Like Jason, Maureen has a form of synesthesia, and blogs about the subject for Psychology Today. Her synesthesia involves seeing colors associated with letters and music. Her first book described her experiences with the phenomenon, Tasting the Universe. Maureen Seaberg is also a member of Mensa, a non-profit organization open only to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ test.

Also on the program, a discussion with Kevin Lehman, founder of Lancaster Creative Factory  about some of his projects, including ArtSmart, which engages at-risk youth in the visual arts to help them develop self-expression.

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Kevin Lehman

Below you can see a time lapse video created by Jason Padgett of one of his drawings as described in the book.

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  • Robert D Colgan img 2014-05-01 09:25

    Great show, Cary!! Glad I count it on the rebound.
    Seaberg was a most listenable, interesting guest. I'm eager to read their book.

    The potential implication from this extraordinary story is, as was said on the show, that ALL of us are hardwired for this type of perceptive processing...but the means of access not yet understood:
    and perhaps that is something that might be one of those fantastic serendipitous discoveries that happen occasionally---but that profoundly change the world once they're implemented.

    I know that psychedelic drugs can induce temporary states akin to the one Padgett now lives with....and I don't think the medical community has yet to fully understand how they transform our sense of "reality" both inside us (emotions, body awareness, etc) and outside us, (the universe) but they can allow both synesthesia and unusual awarenesses and interpretations of phenomena . . but their effects quickly dissipate and do not allow for that acclimating incubation period Padgett went through for three years as he gradually adjusted to his new self.
    Thanks for the show.

  • desiree.koser img 2014-05-01 09:46

    I'm really fascinated by this discussion! I sustained brain trauma at 18 months old, but have always had a magical-seeming ability to perform nearly-perfectly in school and college with minimal effort as well as having artistic talent. I've only recently (I'm 28 now) considered the importance of my childhood accident (near-drowning) and its potential link to my cognitive talents. I would love to know more about what's going on in my brain! I suspect I fall on the autism spectrum, but have never been formally assessed. I have spent a lot of time contemplating my abilities, trying to decide if I'm truly special or just have an inflated sense of self.

  • Joanne Cassaro img 2014-05-01 10:53

    Fabulous interviews this morning! Both guests.

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