Reign of the Brain: Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's "Stroke of Insight"

Neuroanatomist (brain scientist)  Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor has spent her adult life studying the brain.  In 1996, upon waking, she discovered she had suffered a stroke from which it took eight years to recover.  In the meantime, according to her account, her brain's left hemisphere required retraining and she found that her right thrived.

The following TED Talks lecture Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight is a powerful look at her theories about the differences between the right and left sides of the brain and how her stroke affected her life.  It's about 20 minutes long, but well worth it; she is a pretty captivating speaker, especially a few minutes into the talk.

According to Dr. Bolte Taylor, the two halves of the brain process information differently, which leads them to think about different aspects of life and actually care about different things.  This is debated in the scientific community, but after hearing the story of her stroke and resulting processing changes, it's hard (for me, at least) not to believe her conclusions.  She asserts that she had, for 30 some-odd years, been primarily "left-brained."  The stroke, however, left her with no verbal communication skills, limited attention, and a feeling of being "one" with just about everything around her--with her "right brain" victorious.

I decided to share this lecture, because what Dr. Bolte Taylor recognizes in herself, while her former dominant brain half was dormant, sounds a lot like mindfulness to me.  She transcended what she believed to be her reality and saw the world entirely differently.  She was, in fact, so caught up in the moment and interacting with the present that she was incapable of functioning as she had prior to the stroke.  Honestly, I would be absolutely terrified to experience a stroke and a complete upheaval of my reality.  Considering that's how I imagine most people would feel, it's pretty incredible that she a. survived, b. recovered, c. recognized and celebrated the benefits of her experience, and d. shared her story with the world. 

The role of mindfulness is expanded upon even further in her article Does Our Planet Need a Stroke of Insight?.  Dr. Bolte Taylor states, "The better we understand the choices we have been making, either consciously or unconsciously, the more say we will have in the world we create. Neurocircuitry may be neurocircuitry, but we don't have to run on automatic."

I thought this uplifting and powerful lecture would be a great way to start your day and, as TED Talks often says, that's an "idea worth spreading."



Image Source: drjilltaylor.com
"Brain Eye to Eye"
Image Credit: Kip May

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