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Man Has Stroke & Can Suddenly Play Piano - Amazing Story


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"A pensioner who survived a stroke was suddenly able to play the piano. Roy Calloway, 78, had never been skilled with a musical instrument until he recovered from the stroke. He was amazed when he discovered his new artistic talent. 'I played and I couldn't believe it. It just came out naturally and I was in shock,' he said."

 

Full story:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3761320/Pensioner-78-discovers-play-piano-stroke.html

_______________________________________________________________

 

So what do you think is going on here?

 

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Damn! Here I am healthy as a horse, and practicing for decades, and I still can't play the piano!!

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Have you watched the video? He can't play the piano.

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So what do you think is going on here?

What I think? That the Daily Mail will print anything.

 

Oh, that's not what you meant. Anyway, it's not like he was suddenly a virtuoso. It seems to me that he just got the *idea* he could play. He says he started to work at it. In other words, like so many people, he sat down and discovered that he had an ear and could start picking out how to play, and proceeded to self-teach. I suspect that if he had acquired that piano 20 years earlier (i.e. before even his first stroke), and had tried to sit down and play it, he would have experienced the same thing. All that really changed was that he suddenly had a piano, and he felt motivated to try to play it. I guess in a sense you could say that, if having the stroke contributed to his having the motivation to try (even if only "in his head"), then it was due to the stroke. (And okay, I guess it's also possible that maybe the stroke could have somehow contributed to his having a "better ear" but that's further into conjecture, and I'd say more doubtful.)

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"So, I started one at a time until finally I could play quite a melody of songs. Can you believe it? Well I couldn't. But now I can."

 

Then he plays something indeterminate and hits a off-key notes in the process. Well, he didn't actually claim he could play _well_, did he? My friend's cat plays the piano too.

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Hidden Brain just put up their story about Derek Amato - another guy who could suddenly play the piano after suffering a concussion - and yes, there are audio examples of his playing included:

 

http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510308/hidden-brain

 

Just like guys and gals who could suddenly speak Swedish or some other foreign language after a hit on the head, it may be hard to believe but it has been known to happen

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Just like guys and gals who could suddenly speak Swedish or some other foreign language after a hit on the head, it may be hard to believe but it has been known to happen

 

I don't think that actually happens, except in the imagination of people who write viral internet headlines.

Now out! "Mind the Gap," a 24-song album of new material.
www.joshweinstein.com

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I was going to post a really bad joke along the lines of "She gave me a couple strokes and suddenly I started speaking a language I'd never studied" but I thought it would be beneath me, wrong and inappropriate.

 

And I forgot the exact joke anyway.

 

 

..
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Just like guys and gals who could suddenly speak Swedish or some other foreign language after a hit on the head, it may be hard to believe but it has been known to happen

 

I don't think that actually happens, except in the imagination of people who write viral internet headlines.

 

Well, the guy featured on Hidden Brain does have some limitations, which seem typical of savants. You'd have to listen to the podcast to learn what they are. I just started listening to it myself. Savants can be really, really good at one or two things but can't handle the basics of other stuff. He can only play his own compositions or something like that.

 

I remember another piano playing savant who can't tie his own shoes.

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Just like guys and gals who could suddenly speak Swedish or some other foreign language after a hit on the head, it may be hard to believe but it has been known to happen

 

I don't think that actually happens, except in the imagination of people who write viral internet headlines.

 

Well, the guy featured on Hidden Brain does have some limitations, which seem typical of savants. You'd have to listen to the podcast to learn what they are. I just started listening to it myself. Savants can be really, really good at one or two things but can't handle the basics of other stuff. He can only play his own compositions or something like that.

 

I remember another piano playing savant who can't tie his own shoes.

 

Definitely, but I don't think the "had a stroke and now speaks Norwegian" thing actually happens. Even the "had a stroke and now they have an accent" people aren't real, IIRC. They're just impaired, and people interpret an accent from that impairment.

Now out! "Mind the Gap," a 24-song album of new material.
www.joshweinstein.com

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Definitely, but I don't think the "had a stroke and now speaks Norwegian" thing actually happens. Even the "had a stroke and now they have an accent" people aren't real, IIRC. They're just impaired, and people interpret an accent from that impairment.

 

In the case of the guy who claimed to have zero music background, before hitting his head on the pool deck, he gained some piano skills, but at a price. You'd have to listen to the podcast because I forgot what it was exactly. I just remember he couldn't read music, or play by ear - something like that.

 

Sure, it's not exactly the same as being born as a musical savant, but I suspect it's related somehow - some weird mis-wiring of the brain/CNS. Like the guy who can play anything on the piano by ear, not matter how technically difficult, but he's blind, cannot dress himself, cannot tie his shoes. Or the child piano virtuoso who gets lost in his own house.

 

I think what you're getting at is there's no something for nothing - in that a traumatic brain event won't give you Rick Wakeman keyboard skills for free. You only get a piece of musical ability, with notable deficiencies in other areas of music, or life. This is based on what little I have heard/read about musical savants - I claim no expertise in this area.

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I recall a number of details from the Podcast. He had musicians in his family. When h was little, he used to sit on the organ bench at church and sing all the hymns while his relative ( grandmother?) played the service. Says he loved music. His mom encouraged him to participate in music throughout school, and he formed a rock band with his friends. He was a dedicated jock, though, so he never got particularly good and his instrument wasn't piano.

 

So, the music didn't come out of nowhere by any means.

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Sure, it's not exactly the same as being born as a musical savant, but I suspect it's related somehow - some weird mis-wiring of the brain/CNS. Like the guy who can play anything on the piano by ear, not matter how technically difficult, but he's blind, cannot dress himself, cannot tie his shoes. Or the child piano virtuoso who gets lost in his own house.

 

Yes, in a related story which was making it's way through the consumer neuroscience literature, there was an Australian man who developed eidetic memory and painting skills following a car crash which damaged his brain. The neuroscientists explained it by saying that the body was compensating for neural damage. When the body sent extra resources (oxygen and energy) to the damaged parts of the brain, adjacent parts also received these extra resources giving the patient some "additional' skills. If I find that link, I'll post it in here.

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Playing music is not a natural act, any more than driving a car or reading stock reports.

We are born knowing how to breathe and poop. Everything else is learned behavior.

Now, some people learn certain things more quickly than others.

Maybe, after suffering some brain trauma, synapses fire differently and a person's facility in some area can improve, but it still takes learned behavior and experimentation (practice) to learn this very-unnatural act of playing an instrument. It's not as though there's a little Mozart hiding in the dark recesses of our brains waiting to be released.

 

A agree that this old fellow can play piano about as well as I play violin, which is to say "not at all," and the headlines are pretty sensational - I was expecting Rachmaninoff - but thankfully he's still HERE after a stroke and thinks he can play piano. Have a great time, Pop.

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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I recall a number of details from the Podcast. He had musicians in his family. When h was little, he used to sit on the organ bench at church and sing all the hymns while his relative ( grandmother?) played the service. Says he loved music. His mom encouraged him to participate in music throughout school, and he formed a rock band with his friends. He was a dedicated jock, though, so he never got particularly good and his instrument wasn't piano.

 

So, the music didn't come out of nowhere by any means.

 

Right, but that was not what made the podcast host skeptical, or the neurologists who talked to him.

 

What they were skeptical of was his ability to operate the piano with his hands - that's what seemingly came out of nowhere.

 

His big limitation was he couldn't play anything by ear. The host asked him to play "Happy Birthday" and he couldn't do it. He also had to think in terms of patterns in order to play. The studio they were in has acoustic treatment all over the wall, in square patterns. So the host asked him to play what he saw on the wall, and he did.

 

@JerryA I'd be interested in more about that Australian painter!

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@JerryA I'd be interested in more about that Australian painter!

 

Sure, here's what I believe to be original 1996 article in the Lancet, by Bruce Miller et al.

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8973469

 

I don't have the text ready to hand, but if you search for Acquired Savant Syndrome, and Frontotemporal Dementia (caused by Trauma), you'll see that the neuroscientists have built quite a case history since that article. I found the explanation of "resources flowing to adjacent processing areas" to be quite creative.

 

I agree with people who said that some previous exposure of the savant to the art form is likely. There could also be a learning curve which is so rapid as to seem immediate to the untrained.

 

Anyway, fun topic!! :)

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@JerryA I'd be interested in more about that Australian painter!

 

Sure, here's what I believe to be original 1996 article in the Lancet, by Bruce Miller et al.

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8973469

 

I don't have the text ready to hand, but if you search for Acquired Savant Syndrome, and Frontotemporal Dementia (caused by Trauma), you'll see that the neuroscientists have built quite a case history since that article. I found the explanation of "resources flowing to adjacent processing areas" to be quite creative.

I have also read the slightly different (more intriguing?) suggestion that the disabled area of the brain has coincidentally been serving as an inhibitor to whichever part is now producing the new work. Once disabled, that second area thrives unchecked.

 

The study for this temporarily disabled the same part of the brain in healthy people, that was affected by the injured ones. Sure enough...memory (or focus, or artistic output, or musical interest) increased.

 

I agree with people who said that some previous exposure of the savant to the art form is likely. There could also be a learning curve which is so rapid as to seem immediate to the untrained.

 

Not just likely but assured; there is not a secret, mystical well of musical or artistic knowledge "out there" waiting to be tapped into by those who can find the correct decoder ring. There is just a new ability to express (or focus on, or explore further) some inherent knowledge or ability the person already has.

 

Interesting to me how often the instrument of new choice is the piano. This ties nicely with the other "piano player" thread. If you were going to start trying to pick out music on an instrument, piano would certainly be the one most forgiving of the process. Notable that the acquired savants don't take up violin or tuba...

 

Anyway, fun topic!! smile

 

Indeed!

 

Now out! "Mind the Gap," a 24-song album of new material.
www.joshweinstein.com

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