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My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's…

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey (original 2006; edition 2009)

by Jill Bolte Taylor Ph.D.

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1,8171013,849 (3.72)1 / 75
Title:My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey
Authors:Jill Bolte Taylor Ph.D.
Info:Plume (2009), Edition: 1 Reprint, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Brain Scientist, Stroke, Healing

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My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor (2006)


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This is one excellent book! Taylor gives you a warning right up front that the first chapter (or so) is pure science, which is wonderful. I didn't understand half of it, but it was interesting nonetheless.

After the science comes the story of Taylor's stroke, how it went down, how she got help, and how she recovered. I'm amazed at her ability to push forward and not get depressed from this life changing event. I obviously don't have much pull in the medical world but I think this book should be considered required reading before anyone becomes a doctor. As part of the medical licensing tests, this book should be required. Especially considering that people who work with patients can and do drain them of their much needed energy if their own minds aren't settled right.

Most of all, the book is quieting. At first I felt uncomfortable listening to the book on cd because I felt Taylor's voice was nasally and maybe reading as if she were trying too hard to be funny or cool. But once I put that aside and heard her story, I could care less about her voice. Who knows, her voice might be a product of the stroke.

Regardless, this book is recommended for anyone who has interest in neurology, how our brains work, or anyone who needs an inspirational story right now.

"In My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery, and the sense of omniscient understanding she gained from this unusual and inspiring voyage out of the abyss of a wounded brain." My Stroke of Insight is both a valuable recovery guide for anyone touched by a brain injury and an emotionally stirring testimony that deep internal peace truly is accessible to anyone at any time. ( )
1 vote wendithegray | May 1, 2017 |
Jill Bolte Taylor was a single, 37-year old neuroanatomist (brain scientist), when she, herself, suffered a stroke. This book tells her story of the stroke and her 8 year recovery.

The first part of the book explained some of the science of the brain. Have to admit that my mind wandered during parts of this section, but from what I heard, she was making it easy enough to understand. I was listening to the audio, which of course, makes it a bit easier for my mind to wander. The author read the audio herself and did a very good job, but apparently she also does public speaking (she has done a TED Talk about this).

The second part of the book describes the stroke and her recovery. She lost use of the left side of her brain (the analytical part) and actually seemed to enjoy simply using her right brain for a while, not worrying about her ego, feeling compassion and inner peace, etc. Oddly enough, the book was amusing at times even while she was describing her stroke (she was excited to be able to “study” a stroke first-hand!) and in some descriptions of her recovery (“tuna… tuna?… tuna” in different tones of voice as she racked her brain, trying to figure out what tuna was). I was amazed at how child-like she was and how much she needed to re-learn! This was the most interesting part of the book for me.

The last section of the book described the right brain vs the left brain and talked a lot about inner peace and such. Overall, I really liked this book. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jan 6, 2017 |
I approached this book with a lot of optimism. I'd expected Taylor's story to be a straight-up memoir of her stroke experience. Instead, it was a sort of hodge-podge of things- part memoir, part brain science overview and part new-age, self help weird '4th grade happy talk' as another reviewer aptly described. The actual story of her stroke experience was interesting; even her bio-science chapters about how the brain works were intriguing and easy to understand (at least to me), but the last third of the book was just plain weird. She encourages her readers to get in touch w/their right brains. Talk to your cells! Thank them for a great day! Repeat peaceful mantras and find Nirvana! .. If it were that easy to attain ultimate peace and nirvana, there would be no more wars, no need for psychotherapy, and mental illness would be a thing of the past.
I am glad Taylor found equilibrium and healing after her stroke. I'm glad she shared her experience as a stroke victim. I just wish she'd stuck more with the actual story of it than venture into lectures ala John Bradshaw and Joel Osteen. ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Nov 28, 2016 |
The book behind my favorite TED lecture. The book has more background for recovering from a brain injury or setback. The conclusion that a "step to the right" is where mankind can make progress to become more wholly aware, peaceful, and loving, is from experience and worth spending some time pursuing. ( )
  torreyhouse | Jun 25, 2016 |
5 stars means, to me, that everybody should read it, not that it's a perfect book.

Everybody is fairly likely to have a stroke, watch someone who is having a stroke, know someone who is recovering from a stroke, or at least visit a rehabilitation clinic or nursing home. The recommendations at the end are important. First there's a page that reminds you what a stroke feels like, and tells you to get help immediately.* Then there's a list of advice on how to help someone who is in therapy to recover.

*Dr. Jill did not get help immediately, and by the time she realized she needed help, she was almost incapable of calling for same, which further delayed her treatment.

Ok, here's the thing. The narrative is 177 pages. I put in 8 bookdarts. Let's see how many I have the energy to share with you. But first, let me tell you more about what's so valuable about this book. It's not just about strokes, or even about general brain injuries.

For example, you know how there's a bunch of current pop psychology books about how train our brains and how to break bad habits and develop good habits? Dr. Jill, while talking about how she worked toward recovery, gives us a really good, really short, version of the content of those books. Another example: there's the insight" Dr. Jill experienced. It's a little bit spiritual, a tiny bit 'new-agey.' But it also makes sense to this atheist.

Ok, on the bookdarts:

"I think it is vitally important that stroke survivors share and communicate about how each of their brains strategized recovery.... [O]ur medical professionals could be more effective during those initial hours of treatment and assessment. I wanted my doctors to focus on how my brain was working rather than on whether it worked according to their criteria or timetable. I still knew volumes of information and I was simply going to have to figure out how to access it again."

At home, Jill's mother, G.G., was an amazing therapist. Since much information was lost, G.G. worked to fill in the gaps.

"'For lunch, you can have minestrone soup [and I found the file in mind and remembered what that was] or a grilled cheese sandwich [found it] or tuna salad.' Since I could not find the file for tuna salad, that's what we chose for lunch. That was our strategy if I couldn't find the old file; we made it a point to make a new one."

G.G. also guided Jill by giving her toddlers' toys. A 12 piece jigsaw puzzle enabled two days of teachable moments. Jill learned 'face-up' and 'edge' and 'insies & outsies' but was still not making matches, until G.G. noted, "Jill, you can use color as a clue." "I could not see color until I was told that color was a tool I could use. Who would have guessed that my left hemisphere needed to be told about color for it to register? I found the same to be true for seeing in three dimensions."

... Point of clarification: do know that different stroke victims have different parts of their minds damaged. Most of Jill's book applies to any person who has experienced brain trauma, but some specific details will vary.

Jill wants us to know that doctors are *wrong* to say that "If you don't have your abilities back by six months,... you won't."

"I needed my visitors to bring me their positive energy.... I appreciated when people came in for just a few minutes, took my hands in theirs, and shared softly and slowly how they were doing, what they were thinking, and how they believed in my ability to recover... nervous, anxious, or angry people were counter-productive."

Here's advice to anyone who feels vulnerable to moods like fretfulness, resentment, or self-pity. "Although there are certain limbic (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our blood stream.... If I remain angry [for example] then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run. Moment by moment, I make the choice to either hook into my neurocircuitry or move back into the present moment, allowing that reaction to melt away as fleeting physiology."

To help her break that circuit, Dr. Jill says "I wait 90 seconds.. and then I speak to my brain as though it is a group of children. I say with sincerity, 'I appreciate you ability to think thoughts and feel emotions, but I am really not interested in thinking these thoughts for feeling these emotions anymore. Please stop bringing this stuff up."

"In extreme situations of cellular disregard, I use my authentic voice to put my language center's Peanut Gallery on a strict time schedule. I give my story-teller full permission to whine rampantly between 9-9:30... If it accidentally misses whine time it is not allowed to reengage in that behavior until its next allotted appointment.... I am serious about not hooking into those negative loops of thought."

Instead, she keeps a handy list of good things to think about: "1) I remember something fascinating that I would like to ponder more deeply, 2) I think about something that would bring me terrific joy, or 3) I think about something I would like to do."

Whew. Those are all the bookdarts. I'm glad for my sake, if not for yours, that I took the time to type them all up. So valuable. :)

Yes, I know this a long review of a short book. Still, Dr. Jill writes clearly and concisely - there's a lot of benefit to you to read the book yourself.

" ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
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This book is dedicated to G.G. Thank you, Mama, for helping me heal my mind. Being your daughter has been my first and greatest blessing. And to memory of Nia. There is no love like puppy love.
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Every brain has a story and this is mine.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0670020745, Hardcover)

A brain scientist's journey from a debilitating stroke to full recovery becomes an inspiring exploration of human consciousness and its possibilities

On the morning of December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. A neuroanatomist by profession, she observed her own mind completely deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life, all within the space of four brief hours. As the damaged left side of her brain--the rational, grounded, detail- and time-oriented side--swung in and out of function, Taylor alternated between two distinct and opposite realties: the euphoric nirvana of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace; and the logical, sequential left brain, which recognized Jill was having a stroke, and enabled her to seek help before she was lost completely.

In My Stroke of Insight, Taylor shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery, and the sense of omniscient understanding she gained from this unusual and inspiring voyage out of the abyss of a wounded brain. It would take eight years for Taylor to heal completely. Because of her knowledge of how the brain works, her respect for the cells composing her human form, and most of all an amazing mother, Taylor completely repaired her mind and recalibrated her understanding of the world according to the insights gained from her right brain that morning of December 10th.

Today Taylor is convinced that the stroke was the best thing that could have happened to her. It has taught her that the feeling of nirvana is never more than a mere thought away. By stepping to the right of our left brains, we can all uncover the feelings of well-being and peace that are so often sidelined by our own brain chatter. A fascinating journey into the mechanics of the human mind, My Stroke of Insight is both a valuable recovery guide for anyone touched by a brain injury, and an emotionally stirring testimony that deep internal peace truly is accessible to anyone, at any time.

Questions for Jill Bolte Taylor

Amazon.com: Your first reaction when you realized what was happening to your body was one you would expect: "Oh my gosh, I'm having a stroke!" Your second, though, was a little more surprising: "Wow, this is so cool!" What could be cool about a stroke?

Taylor: I grew up to study the brain because I have a brother who is only 18 months older than I am. He was very different in the way he perceived experiences and then chose to behave. As a result, I became fascinated with the human brain and how it creates our perception of reality. He was eventually diagnosed with the brain disorder schizophrenia, and I dedicated my career to the postmortem investigation of the human brain in an attempt to understand, at a biological level, what are the differences between my brain and my brother’s brain. On the morning of the stroke, I realized that my brain was no longer functioning like a "normal" brain and this insight into my brother's reality excited me. I was fascinated to intimately understand what it might be like on the inside for someone who would not be diagnosed as normal. Through the eyes of a curious scientist, this was an absolutely rare and fascinating experience for me to witness the breakdown of my own mind.

Amazon.com: What did you learn about the brain from your stroke and your recovery that your scientific training hadn't prepared you for?

Taylor: My scientific training did not teach me anything about the human spirit and the value of compassion. I had been trained as a scientist, not as a clinician. I can only hope that we are teaching our future physicians about compassion in medicine, and I know that some medical schools, including the Indiana University School of Medicine, have created a curriculum with this intention.

My training as a scientist, however, did provide me with a roadmap to how the body and brain work. And although I lost my left cognitive mind that thinks in language, I retained my right hemisphere that thinks in pictures. As a result, although I could not communicate with the external world, I had an intuitive understanding about what I needed to do in order to create an environment in which the cells in my brain could be happy and healthy enough that they could regain their function. In addition, because of my training, I had an innate trust in the ability of my brain to be able to recover itself and my mother and I respected the organ by listening to it. For example, when I was tired, I allowed my brain to sleep, and when I was fresh and capable of focusing my attention, we gave me age-appropriate toys and tools with which to work.

Amazon.com: Your stroke affected functions in your left brain, leaving you to what you call the "la-la land" of your right hemisphere. What was it like to live in your right brain, and then to rebuild your left?

Taylor: When the cells in my left brain became nonfunctional because they were swimming in a pool of blood, they lost their ability to inhibit the cells in my right hemisphere. In my right brain, I shifted into the consciousness of the present moment. I was in the right here, right now awareness, with no memories of my past and no perception of the future. The beauty of La-la land (my right hemisphere experience of the present moment) was that everything was an explosion of magnificent stimulation and I dwelled in a space of euphoria. This is great way to exist if you don't have to communicate with the external world or care whether or not you have the capacity to learn. I found that in order for me to be able to learn anything, however, I had to take information from the last moment and apply it to the present moment. When my left hemisphere was completely nonfunctional early on, it was impossible for me to learn, which was okay with me, but I am sure it was frustrating for those around me. A simple example of this was trying to put on my shoes and socks. I eventually became physically capable of putting my shoes and socks on, but I had no ability to understand why I would have to put my socks on before my shoes. To me they were simply independent actions that were not related and I did not have the cognitive ability to figure out the appropriate sequencing of the events. Over time, I regained the ability to weave moments back together to create an expanse of time, and with this ability came the ability to learn methodically again. Life in La-la land will always be just a thought away, but I am truly grateful for the ability to think with linearity once again.

Amazon.com: What can we learn about our brains and ourselves from your experience, even if we haven't lived through the kind of brain trauma you have?

Taylor: I learned that I have much more say about what goes on between my ears than I was ever taught and I believe that this is true for all of us. I used to understand that I had the ability to stop thinking about one thing by consciously choosing to preoccupy my mind with thinking about something else. But I had no idea that it only took 90 seconds for me to have an emotional circuit triggered, flush a physiological response through my body and then flush completely out of me. We can all learn that we can take full responsibility for what thoughts we are thinking and what emotional circuitry we are feeling. Knowing this and acting on this can lead us into feeling a wonderful sense of well-being and peacefulness.

Amazon.com: You are the "Singin' Scientist" for Harvard's Brain Bank (just as you were before your stroke). Could you tell us about the Brain Bank (in song or not)?

Taylor: There is a long-term shortage of brain tissue donated for research into the severe mental illnesses. Most people don’t realize that when you sign the back of your license as an organ donor, the brain is not included. If you would like to donate your brain for research, you must contact a brain bank directly. There is also a shortage of "normal control" tissue for research. The bottom line reality is that if there were more tissue available for research, then more scientists would be dedicating their careers to the study of the severe mental illnesses and we would have more answers about what is going on with these disorders. The numbers of mentally ill individuals in our society are staggering. The most serious and disabling conditions affect about 6 percent--or one in 17--adults and 9-13 percent of children in the United States. Half of all lifetime conditions of mental illness start by age 14 years, and three-fourths by age 24 years.

For more information about brain donation to the Harvard brain bank, please call 1-800-BRAINBANK or visit them at: www.brainbank.mclean.org

If you would like to hear me sing the brain bank jingle, please visit www.drjilltaylor.com!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:24 -0400)

On December 10, 1996, Taylor, a brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke. She observed her own mind deteriorate. Now she shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery.

(summary from another edition)

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