November 27, 2013
Meet The Trickster
The human brain is a complicated mechanism. There is so much we still do know about the brain, yet we know that humans do not have conscious access to most of the brain’s capabilities. In fact, I sometimes think of it as a little trickster. It changes and plays with us. And one CBS Denver article shows just how tricky the human brain can be.
Thus enters Lachlan Connors, a junior at Kent Denver High School. In his youth, Connors was the typical, rowdy little boy. He loved sports and played football and lacrosse. In fact, as a young boy, he desired to become a professional lacrosse player.
However, despite his affections for athletics, he also enjoyed music. He tried to learn to play the piano, but just could not get it. He could not even hypothesize what note would come next in songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” He just could not get music. He loved it, but its talents eluded him.
That is, until he was about 12 years old. He was playing on a recreational lacrosse team when he fell backwards and hit the back of his head on the ground really hard. In his own words, “I remember getting up and feeling really dazed. I didn’t really understand something bad had happened.” He went to the doctor and received the all clear to continue playing, so that’s what he did. Then a few more knocks to the head, and his behavior went from concerning to scary. He started hallucinating, and eventually he began having epileptic seizures. These, naturally, led to a prolonged stay in the hospital, which ended with heartbreak for Connors; he could no longer play contact sports. These held too much danger for his brain.
In this devastating moment, Connors found some respite. Suddenly, he could play the music with which before he had struggled. And he could do so with almost no effort. He plays by ear, and he plays well.
The brain injury was no small thing, which is why his doctor, Dr. Spyridon Papadopoulos, believes that perhaps the brain injury had something to do with Connors newfound musical talents. “The thought is just a theory — that this was a talent laying latent in his brain and somehow was uncovered by his brain rewiring after the injury. Clearly something happened in his brain and his brain had to recover from injury and change happened. And change may have uncovered this ability no one knew he had.”
Connors agrees, explaining that he thinks his brain rewired somehow thus opening up other talents. Frankly, Connors could not be happier with the change. Sure, he loved sports, but music is his life now. He plays about 13 different instruments including, but not limited to, the piano, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, harmonica, karimba, and both Scottish and Irish bagpipes. Music drives him.
See what I mean by the brain as trickster? As a kid, Connors could not play music, period. Both he and his mom admit to his complete lack of musical talent. Then the brain gets jiggled, rewired, whatever and not only can he play music, but also he is incredibly good. Obviously, somewhere in Connors’ brain his musical talent lay dormant until now. Did the injuries open his brain up to it? No one knows. But Connors sure is grateful to be able to play music.
That’s pretty tricky, if you ask me—a good kind of tricky.
Image Credit: Thinkstock