Imagine surviving a massive brain injury, then waking up in hospital to discover your personality has completely transformed.
It happened to builder and former jailbird Tommy McHugh; also to Jon Sarkin, once a shy and conventional chiropractor.
Now McHugh easily bursts into tears; Sarkin is garrulous and intense. And after suffering strokes both stunned their doctors, families and friends by suddenly revealing a hitherto hidden and compulsive talent – to create amazing art that is confounding critics and collectors alike.
This program from Britain’s Channel 4 and Focus Productions asks whether Sarkin’s and McHugh’s stories point to an extraordinary potential lying dormant in most of us. Can damage to one part of the brain switch on idle potential in other parts?
The idea that we can harness unused brainpower is reinforced by 11-year-old Ping-lian and teenager Dane. They are both autistic savants whose art features incredible detail, accuracy and realism – unlike Sarkin and McHugh who acquired brain damage and create weird and fantastical works.
The brain’s creative potential is being explored by scientists like Professor Allan Snyder, director of Sydney’s Centre for the Mind. Snyder believes everyone possesses the extraordinary skills of savants. This documentary shows how he experiments to simulate the effects of autism and unlock the potential of the brain’s right hemisphere. Snyder works at the controversial cutting edge of brain research using a technique he calls transcranial magnetic stimulation.
“Painting the Mind” gives literally a mind-boggling insight into the powers of the human brain, and a glimpse at what the future may hold if science finds the key to unlocking our potential… Four Corners. 8:30 pm Monday 23 April, ABC TV.
This program will be repeated about 11.35 pm Wednesday 25 April; also on ABC2 digital channel at 9.30 pm Wednesday and 8 am Thursday.