a stroke of insight


Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened — as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

Note that the stroke was to the left hemisphere. Her experiences therefore give many clues as to the roles of the hemispheres. However we do need to be aware that the right hemisphere is not running at its full potential in any of us, due to a lifetime of suppression by the left hemisphere and also not receiving the total nutrition and fuel it requires to run on. When left hemisphere function is lost, we get a glimpse into the potential of the right hemisphere but we do not see its full potential straight away. So having to manage with a damaged left hemisphere caused Jill Bolte Taylor problems initially. As Jill Bolte Taylor found, in the years after her stroke she recovered lost function and gained abilities she had not had before.

’in response to the swelling and trauma of the stroke, which placed pressure on her dominant left hemisphere, the functions of her right hemisphere blossomed’.

She is now known as the ‘The Singing Scientist’.

Her website is here.

Jill Bolte Taylor's experiences hint at the kind of latent potential of our brains - and show what is potentially available when the left hemisphere's stranglehold is removed.