The human brain is the least understood human organ. It’s no wonder. It contains some 20 billion cells and apparently (to the extent we understand it) controls what we do, think, feel, and a myriad of other bodily functions we’re usually aren’t aware of.
Colloquially we talk about brain wiring, but that’s actually a pretty accurate description. Our brains contain more nerve fibers, or brain wires, than the number of wires in most countries’ telephone networks.
When the brain is damaged, for example during a stroke, this wiring can get mixed up. Most often the results are tragic, such as paralysis, dementia, memory loss, problem-solving difficulties, and a host of communication challenges.
Occasionally, though, a stroke can have more unusual outcomes.
The story of a Malcolm Myatt, a British man who lost the ability to feel sadness after a stroke, became a popular social media thread.
Myatt suffered a stroke that damaged his frontal lobe in 2004 when he was just shy of 60. He lost feeling on his left side and has some issues with short term memory. But Myatt says he also doesn’t ever feel sad and considers that a benefit.
A jovial man anyway, his wife Kath says he’s more childish now, and it’s infectious: “When he starts laughing everyone in the room does. If he’s in hysterics, everyone else is too. He livens up any room. Everyone misses him when he’s not there,” Mrs. Myatt told the Telegraph.
We’ve all heard the occasional story of someone waking up from a brain trauma suddenly speaking a foreign language or speaking in foreign accent. It does happen.
In 2012, an 81-year-old Englishman, Alun Morgan woke up from a stroke speaking only Welsh, not English. Morgan’s only exposure to Wales was the few months he spent there during World War II.
Berley Stabler from Greenville, S.C., suffered a mild stroke in 2004 at age 46. When he recovered his speech, he spoke with an accept that sounded possibly German or French.
Susan Bowen from Alpena, Mich. had a similar experience to Stabler’s. You can hear her before and after accents in this ABC report.
Ken Walters was left disabled after a horrific work accident. For 19 years he was bound to a wheelchair, living on benefits and dealing with depression.
In 2005, he suffered a stroke. He came out of it doodling, he had never been a doodler. Soon he was staying up all night to draw. With his new talents, he became a professional graphic artist. Within two years of the stroke he had works being commissioned by companies like IBM and Java.
Other less pleasant things can also occur. For some, nerve pathways to the brain’s taste zone can get mixed up, and they end up with a distorted sense of taste, no taste at all, or a constant metallic taste in the mouth.
There are various delusions stroke sometimes suffer. It’s possible to be convinced you have third arm. Another particularly disturbing syndrome is the feeling that someone you know has been replaced by alien or a double.