I first became aware of this story when listening to The Skeptic’s Guide To The Universe podcast this last week. Of course the first thing that pops into ones mind is that perhaps the guy was gay all along, and just found the stroke to be a good excuse to come out of the closet. However, when you look at the man’s total and complete transformation, it seems likely that there were neurological events that had a direct affect on his personality, as well as his sexual orientation.
The host of the SGU podcast, Dr. Steven Novella, is an academic neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine and didn’t really seem surprised at all when discussing the story. He stated that changes in personality, including sexual preference, is not unheard of with brain injuries, strokes, or tumors, though they are rare. Whether it’s a straight person turning gay, a gay person turning straight, or a complete loss of all sexual inhibitions, injuries to the brain can have interesting results. One story that was recounted during the podcast concerned a heterosexual man that began to have sexual desires for children as a result of a brain tumor that was growing in his skull. Once the tumor was removed, the desires ceased, and his previous adult heterosexual desires returned. That was of course until his sexual attraction to children returned, which then led to another brain scan, that showed the tumor had come back. Once again the tumor was removed, and he reverted back to his normal self with no sexual attraction towards children.
When it all comes down to brass tacks, we are the electrified jelly in our head. Damage to the brain can completely change who we are to the point where the person we once were no longer exists. I have an acquaintance who’s brother had a brain tumor that was surgically removed, and he wasn’t quite the same after the procedure. Not too long after the surgery, he killed his wife and diced her up into little pieces. We are our brain, and ultimately, we do not control it, it controls us.