Wednesday, August 27, 2008

8/26 Ted Talk Tuesday--Jill Bolte Taylor "My stroke of insight”

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, a blood vessel in Jill Bolte Taylor's brain exploded and she realized she was having a massive stroke. As a brain scientist, she realized she had a ringside seat to her own stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding, self-awareness -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story of recovery and awareness -- of how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another. Jill started studying the brain as her brother had schizophrenia.

Amazed to find herself alive, Taylor spent eight years recovering her ability to think, walk and talk. She has become a spokesperson for stroke recovery and for the possibility of coming back from brain injury stronger than before. In her case, although the stroke damaged the left side of her brain, her recovery unleashed a torrent of creative energy from her right.

As she went through this experience, she spoke about going back and forth between the sides of her brain…”la-la land” and conscious thought that something was going wrong and she should get help. As a group, we wondered if she consciously jeopardized her health to go through this experience as she had several warning signs and never called 911. When she finally tried to get help (after exercising, showering and dressing), it took quite a while as she waited for her stream of consciousness to come back each time as it swung like a pendulum. It took her 45 minutes to find a colleagues business card on her desk and then she still had to dial the phone number. It was amazing to hear her thoughts and feelings as she went through this process and that she remembered them to be able to relate them back to us. Once she finally called her colleague, she remembered him sounding like a golden retriever…sound was not processing into words.

"How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I've gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career."
Jill Bolte Taylor

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