After Diving Into A Shallow Pool, This Coloradan Suddenly Played Like Beethoven

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Photo: Hidden Brain piano savant Derek Amato swimming pool
Derek Amato

NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam has described the human brain as having an autopilot function that directs people even when they are not aware. It's the unconscious part of people's brains, and it's the focus of Vedantam's podcast called "Hidden Brain," about the invisible forces that shape how people understand the world. One episode in particular shows how the unconscious mind can work in mysterious ways.

The episode tells the story of a Colorado man, Derek Amato, who had no particular musical talent until, at age 40, he had what would normally be a tragic accident: He got a serious concussion after jumping into the shallow end of a swimming pool. The next day, he discovered that he could play complicated piano compositions for hours on end. Vedantam reports that excerpts have diagnosed Amato with an extremely rare syndrome although Vedantam himself remains skeptical.

Vedantam talked with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about Amato's story and what's coming up on the Hidden Brain podcast.

(c)2016 National Public Radio, Inc. NPR podcast titled "Stroke of Genius: How Derek Amato Became A Musical Savant" was originally podcast on NPR's Hidden Brain on February 23, 2016, and is used with the permission of NPR. Any unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited.