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Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight

Ted

Here's a fascinating lecture from the TED talks series which was posted to their site this month. TED is an annual conference which brings together great minds in the worlds of Technology, Entertainment, and Design.

In this talk, neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor discusses the day she realized that she was having a massive stroke and describes, as only a brain scientist can, how she experienced it and what she learned from it.

If you have 20 minutes to spare I recommend it.

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Comments

  1. I heard that's what taking drugs felt like. But she is quite amazing.

    Posted by: YvesPaul | Mar 25, 2008 11:51:01 AM


  2. I know Dr. Jill in real life---and she's as cool and expansive and inspiring as she seems on the video.

    And to Shane: I know you were being cynical, but Jill's story was written up in O magazine several years ago.

    Posted by: Ellen | Mar 25, 2008 12:57:30 PM


  3. I know Dr. Jill in real life---and she's as cool and expansive and inspiring as she seems on the video.

    And to Shane: I know you were being cynical, but Jill's story was written up in O magazine several years ago.

    Posted by: Ellen | Mar 25, 2008 12:59:52 PM


  4. Gee... her speech makes me want to have a stroke! As a geneticist in training, I found Dr. Jill's inclusion of New Age jargon a bit unsettling. The recurring "becoming one with the energy" message was too metaphysical for my ever calculatingly objective and empirically based brain. TOOBOOT does have a point though that she very eloquently articulated the probable mechanisms that lead people to the mass neurosis that is religion and spirituality. However, this is only evident to the already enlightened individuals. I doubt the lay person will see anything other than a confirmation of their faith.

    I would be less critical of her had she specified that everything she described was ultimately all in her head; Her brain malfunctioned with the onset of the stroke and thus an unintentional experiment was performed to show that reality only weighs 1,300 grams and sits neatly above and between our eyes.

    So I think, if anything, the speech was purely motivational, having little to do with scientific hows and whys. I take issue with people trying to use science--its terms to be more precise--to envelop a psychological notion and make it sound legitimate and important. "Step away from your left brain" is just a fancy way of saying "chill."

    Posted by: Michael Kingsford | Mar 25, 2008 8:13:17 PM


  5. To all the scientists posting, I want to pose a question. Obviously Dr. Jill is a scientist also and I would think all scientists try to stick to the same rigorous standards for proof, although Dr. Jill goes on to talk about "nirvana" and the like. My question is, how do you know what she was experiencing was not real? I mean one could argue that certain brain chemicals activate as the brain ultimately shuts down that creates this "euphoric" experience, but where is the proof it's just chemicals? Clearly our brains operate on a certain wavelength and how do we know that all we see day to day in normal, typical experience is all there is? There are plenty of ways to get altered states of consciousness, drugs, alcohol, etc. and many induce feelings of intense pleasure but she has a sense of literally being disconnected from her own brain, her own body. And yes, I've heard of experiments where scientists have induced "out of body" like experiences in people, but why does our brain even sense things like that? And finally, isn't there some underlying common sense in what she is saying, that everything is fundamentally made of the same substance or energy when you reach the tiniest levels or dimensions or whatever and that our feeling of "separateness" really is an illusion? Doesn't that hypothesis merit scientific study?

    Posted by: Matthew | Mar 25, 2008 8:53:41 PM


  6. To all the scientists posting, I want to pose a question. Obviously Dr. Jill is a scientist also and I would think all scientists try to stick to the same rigorous standards for proof, although Dr. Jill goes on to talk about "nirvana" and the like. My question is, how do you know what she was experiencing was not real? I mean one could argue that certain brain chemicals activate as the brain ultimately shuts down that creates this "euphoric" experience, but where is the proof it's just chemicals? Clearly our brains operate on a certain wavelength and how do we know that all we see day to day in normal, typical experience is all there is? There are plenty of ways to get altered states of consciousness, drugs, alcohol, etc. and many induce feelings of intense pleasure but she has a sense of literally being disconnected from her own brain, her own body. And yes, I've heard of experiments where scientists have induced "out of body" like experiences in people, but why does our brain even sense things like that? And finally, isn't there some underlying common sense in what she is saying, that everything is fundamentally made of the same substance or energy when you reach the tiniest levels or dimensions or whatever and that our feeling of "separateness" really is an illusion? Doesn't that hypothesis merit scientific study?

    Posted by: Matthew | Mar 25, 2008 8:55:39 PM


  7. She is describing in detail, identical facets of a "spirit quest" journey, in which one attains a "higher" consciousness though the use of hallucinogens / and or very specialized deep meditative practices.
    (Both of which are free from the pain, paralysis and/or distortion of the physical body)

    Posted by: Tia O'hara | Mar 27, 2008 10:51:15 PM


  8. Thanks for posting this. I found this video and many others from this organization very insightful and interesting. The TED talks are all presented by some of the greatest individuals in their respective fields. Thanks again!

    Posted by: Daniel | Mar 29, 2008 10:17:48 PM


  9. Hey all. I'm going into my first year of medical school this year, and have studied extensively neuroanatomy and neurosciences. I find her remarkably refreshing, and honest. And while she does veer into the metaphysical, I think its both appropriate and necessary. The point of the talk was perspective. Her perspective, her struggle, is incredibly unique given her background. It isn't meant to be necessarily educational. It's a story, and point of view. It has both intellectual and emotional qualities. And although I would appreciate the intricacies of the science, that certainly isn't the point. It brought character and animation to the neuropathy. She showed the struggle from the inside out, as only a neuroanatomist could. I was deeply moved.

    Posted by: John T | Mar 30, 2008 2:57:29 PM


  10. I've been recommending a book by Jill Bolte Taylor called "My Stroke of Insight" to everyone I know. It's an amazing story, both uplifting and powerful on three levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual, but the spiritual aspect alone makes this the best book I've read all year.

    How often do you get to hear a neuroscientist describe having a stroke, nearly dying and finding Nirvana, and then making a miraculous recovery so that she's back to teaching medical students!?!

    I came away with a renewed sense of understanding, wonder and hopefulness about the capabilities of the human brain. I give "My Stroke of Insight" highest marks!

    You can get the book for just $16.47 with free shipping from Amazon!

    Posted by: Ellen | May 16, 2008 2:32:52 AM


  11. The New York Times Sunday Newspaper on May 25 had a great two page article on Jill Bolte Taylor and her book, "MY STROKE OF INSIGHT". Her book is a must read and this NY Times article - called "A Superhighway to bliss" is worth checking out too.

    Posted by: Edwards | May 28, 2008 11:25:58 PM


  12. MY STROKE OF INSIGHT was ranked #5 in all books sold on Amazon today and #1 in Memoirs above even Barbara Walters' memoir. Babs had been promoting her book for months in advance and Dr. Taylor's book was self-published.

    Then Oprah recommended it. There's the Power of Now, and then there's the Power of Oprah!!

    "My Stroke of Insight" is out in Hardcover now for less than the old paperback edition. Amazon has it for 40% off.

    Posted by: Mary | Jun 2, 2008 3:40:40 AM


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