Saturday, November 12, 2011

Brain surgery triggers compulsive artmaking

I came across this program on TV about "Ingenious Minds," and this one particular program followed the case of a chiropractor who had to have brain surgery to unwrap blood vessels that were pinching a nerve near his ear. After some complications from the surgery, they had to remove part of his cerebellum to ease some swelling. As a result, he encountered some side effects, such as double vision, difficulty with balance, and....the compulsive need to create art. Neuroscientists are now studying his brain makeup to see how the structure of his brain is linked to creativity. Watch the episode below:

Jon Sarkin was a successful chiropractor until he suffered a brain aneurysm while golfing. While in surgery, Jon died on the table and doctors had to remove nearly half of his cerebellum to save his life. Jon couldn't walk or talk for a year and he started drawing and painting as a way to communicate.

For Jon, making art isn't an option: it's his life and his curse. Jon's condition is a rare one known as "acquired savant syndrome." Some of the world's most esteemed neurologists want to study his brain to understand his sudden compulsion to create art.

The researchers discover that Jon's brain re-wired itself after the trauma. Functions that the cerebellum usually controls (motor control, attention span) have been re-routed to the frontal lobe, which usually handles high-level functions like abstract thinking, decision-making and creativity.


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