When a Brain Scientist Suffers a Stroke
(18 mins mv.)

March 13, 2008,  9:26 am

As a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor has always known more about brains than most people. But when a brain hemorrhage triggered her own stroke, she suddenly had a front-row seat on the deterioration of the brain.
Dr. Taylor recounts the details of her stroke and the amazing insights she gained from it in a riveting 18-minute video of her speech at the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference in Monterey, Calif., last month. Her fascinating lecture includes a detailed explanation of the differences between the left and right sides of the brain, complete with an incredibly cool prop — a real human brain.

On a December morning in 1996, Dr. Taylor woke up with searing pain behind her left eye, the beginnings of a hemorrhagic stroke. As the left side of her brain shut down, she began to feel disconnected from her body and entered an almost-euphoric like state. It took her a while to make sense of the experience, but as her right arm became paralyzed, it dawned on her that she was having a stroke.

"How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?,” she said. "In the course of four hours, I watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information. On the morning of the hemorrhage, I could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of my life.”

Her account of the experience of stroke is vivid, and at one point, she recalled, she felt like someone had taken a remote control and hit the mute button. "I was shocked to find myself inside a silent mind,” she said.

What is so surprising about Dr. Taylor’s story is that she experienced a sort of euphoria as she was left with only right-brain functions. She lost her sense of self, but she also shed the stress of her life and, as she puts it, "37 years of emotional baggage.”

"Imagine what it would be like to be totally disconnected from your brain chatter,” she said. "I felt a sense of peacefulness.”

Dr. Taylor’s lecture is challenging and thought-provoking, and I’d encourage you to take the time to watch it in its entirety. It took Dr. Taylor eight years to recover from the stroke, but she said she was motivated by a desire to share her experience of stroke and recovery, particularly her increased awareness of the right side of her brain. "I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be to how we live our lives, and it motivated me to recover,” she said.

To learn more about Dr. Taylor, visit her Web site.http://www.drjilltaylor.com/index.html

Excerpt from When a Brain Scientist Suffers a Stroke

As a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor has always known more about brains than most people.

"Because each of our hemispheres process information differently, each of them thinks about things differently and they care about things differently and they have very different personalities.

"The right hemisphere is all about this present moment: right here, right now. Our right hemisphere thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies. Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems and then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like, smells and tastes like, feels like, and what it sounds like.

"We are energy beings, connected to the energy all around us through the consciousness of our right hemisphere. We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemisphere as one human family. And right here, right now we are here to make this world a better place through our connection.

"My left hemisphere is a very different place. It thinks linearly and methodically. It thinks about the past, and it’s all about the future. It’s designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment and begin to pick out details, details, and more details about those details. It categorizes and organizes all that info and associates all the things we learned in the pas, and projects into the future all of our possibilities. Our left hemisphere thinks in language. It’s that ongoing brain chatter that is connecting me and my internal world with my external world. It’s that little voice that says to me, ‘Hey you’ve got to remember to do this or do that.’ It’s that calculating intelligence that remembers when things need to be done. But perhaps most important is that little voice that says to us, ‘I AM.’ And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me I AM, I become separate – single individual and separate from the energy flow around me – and I become separate from you.

"We have the power to choose in the moment how we want to be in the world.

"Right hemisphere: I’m connected with the all that is, the life force of the world – one with all that is. Or I can step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere, where I am a single individual separated from the flow, separate from you : ‘I AM’ – these are the ‘we’ inside of me. Which do you choose and when?

"The more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemisphere the more we will project peace into the world the more peaceful our planet will be."