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The astonishing New York Times bestseller that chronicles how a brain scientist's own stroke led to enlightenment

On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven- year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life-all within four hours-Taylor alternated between the euphoria 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 she was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was completely lost. It would take her eight years to fully recover.

For Taylor, her stroke was a blessing and a revelation. It taught her that by "stepping to the right" of our left brains, we can uncover feelings of well-being that are often sidelined by "brain chatter." Reaching wide audiences through her talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference and her appearance on Oprah's online Soul Series, Taylor provides a valuable recovery guide for those touched by brain injury and an inspiring testimony that inner peace is accessible to anyone.
Published: Penguin Group on
ISBN: 9781101213971
List price: $12.99
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Jill Bolte Taylor's tribute to the right brain is a fascinating auto-exploration of her experience of a left side hemorrhagic stroke, and her eight year long recovery process. The stroke performed a temporary lesion of the language and related functions of her left brain, leaving her awash in feelings of mystical unity and connection to the universe. In short, it sounds like she was tripping. It put her in touch with her right brain, enabled her to find her soul, and enabled her to write a book that integrates neuroanotomy and medicine with spiritual and emotional wisdom. Looking back she is genuinely grateful for the experience of stroke. Not a bad day's work for a bleeding arteriovenous malformation (AVM) at age 37.

That said, I've got some problems with this book. The first involves the epistemological status of the stroke narrative itself, particularly that of the first few hours. It is beautifully written, but it is of course written, and written long after the fact. Because it is writing about the very experience of losing language itself, it is at least a problematic text. Clearly there must be a significant measure of reconstruction. Memories that by her own account cannot have been verbal or left brain based must have been translated and re-presented as words. As long as we keep this literary/physiological fudge in mind, the account itself is interesting, even fascinating. Taylor enables us to experience in words the experience of someone who has awakened to the fact that she has lost her words. We have the impression that she could picture, as a neuroanatomist, what was actually happening to her brain, or does she mean only to imply that she has reconstructed this afterwards? It's not clear. And so we have to keep in mind that this is a creative fiction in some significant measure and not merely mimetic or directly representational. She is painting pictures of awarenesses that it is difficult to imagine that she could have had during the experience because they are such left brain thoughts. Neither her own impressive credentials as a scientist at the time, or her subsequent research, all of which create the literary experience that "you are there" should disguise the fact that in a certain left brain sense "she was not there" and had to apply words to her experiences much later. In some ways, this makes her literary achievement all the greater, but this perhaps should be differentiated from a scientific text. Any introspective narrative faces this problem, but an introspective narrative about the loss of language is even more problematic.

The deeper problem that I have, however, with this text, and it may not be your problem but it is certainly mine, is that I don't believe in the right brain, as a matter of religion. If I am to choose a side in the brain wars, I must believe in the left brain. My God is not the god of oceanic feelings of oneness, or of wordless emotional connection, or even of feelings at all. My God is the god of symbols, time and linearity. I believe in words and symbols and I believe through words and symbols. I consider the human capacity for logic and reason to be the purest distillation of divinity (or if you prefer the greatest achievement of evolution... all the same to me.)

My heart and my soul are in my left brain, not my right brain. I like my right brain well enough, but I'm just not that into it. And when I read the later chapters of this book, with all of Dr. Taylor's odes to emotional awareness and right brain connectivity, it just makes me feel all cynical and angry. That's not going to feed my children! That's not going to feed the world. It's all very well for you, Dr. Taylor, to preach about emotional wholeness (who could be against that? not me!) but I'm running out of money and I've got a family to feed. I really don't have time to hang out and get more in touch with myself. I need to reason my way out of this box of life that I'm trapped in, and no one is paying me to observe my circuitry and heal my soul. I don't think I've expressed the full extent of my cynicism yet, but I'm trying.

Sure I've had a few artificially induced right brain experiences, and sure I've done enough therapy to believe that our right brains are real and have a certain importance. But that's not where God is. No way. God is doing multiplication tables, and calculating functions. God is reasoning through logical possibilities. God is law and justice. God is language. God is in the left brain. God is what a microprocessor does. And while I readily grant that God needs a friendly working relationship with the Shekina, the indwelling presence, if you will, or the right brain if you must, I just don't think I could live in that kind of holiness for very long. I have too much I want to get done before I die, and time is short.

I'm happy that Dr. Taylor is happy. I suspect it has way more to do with the fact that she has a nice position with the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute and the Indiana University School of Medicine and has written a book that has garnered lots of attention, than it has to do with the strokes of insight she gained when half her brain winked out. It's the writing and sense she made of that event, not the time of oceanic oneness itself, that she herself acknowledges was necessary to feel whole again. She still values the time when her left brain disappeared for awhile. I've had experiences like that of a lesser degree, but I'm not so convinced that they amount to a hill of beans. We'd both probably agree that you wouldn't want to live only on the right side of the brain.
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A strange and fascinating trip through the brain via one woman 's trauma and recovery. it gets a little oogy boogy at the end -- not that I am anti-oogy boogy talk but I am aware that many people get turned off by any mention of inner peace or unseen energies, but this is a scientist talking and really, it made sense to me.more
chronicles the author's recovery from a stroke. I really enjoyed the last chapter "Finding Your Inner Peace" and found some good insights here for anyone irregardless of having a stroke or serious illness.more
Useful, if repetitive first-hand account of a brain in crisis, told from the informed point of view of a scientist who experienced much of what she'd previously studied from the outside. Her non-technical explanations of basic brain-functioning are useful, and her insights on essential patient-support are presented with the convincing urgency they deserve. Unfortunately the Author feels compelled to introduce her own theology into the account, expressing it in terms of neurological science and her own experience. That's her prerogative, of-course, and one must admire her seriousness of purpose. Still, many readers, including God-believers like myself, will find themselves less than convinced.more
If you or anyone you care about has had or is at risk of stroke, this relatively short book can help you understand not only the physiology of stroke but also the (sometimes surprising) keys to maximal rehabilitation. This is the firsthand account of coming back from a stroke by a person well-qualified to describe it.more
Substance: The author, a neuroanatomist, suffered a stroke at a relatively early age (early forties?) and retained sufficient cortical function to understand what was happening during her episode, treatment, and eventual recovery. Her insights into the condition of other patients is stimulating and encouraging. Her own problem involved the "silencing" of the "left brain", and how she had to "train" herself to compensate and then re-learn functions as the brain recuperated and resumed "normal" operation. Contains insights tinot the spiritual connection of the right-brain when the lift-brain is silenced.Most important are the author's detailed list of what a patient needs to have and to do for recovery.NOTES: It's kind of scary that a brain-doctor didn't recognize the symptoms of stroke for several hours while it was in progress.The cover illustration is a photograph of a stained-glass brain that she created, as part of her therapy activities.more
This is a very readable book (I read mine while waiting to be selected for a trial for jury duty), but it still contains many nuggets of value. Of particular value are the advice she gives health care providers: Don't shout. Make eye contact. Allow the patient to sleep since it is through sleep that we heal our bodies and our brains.This is probably not the book Taylor would have written prior to the stroke when she still worked as a brain researcher. She never quite said whether she recovered to the extent she could have returned to that work. My guess is that she no longer could, but I do believe we should value persons for the degrees at the end of their names (I only have two), or by how esoteric their career sounds. If you are interested in the science behind the brain or strokes, this is not the book for you.The book contains an appendix with a series of questions a stroke patient's advocate can ask the health care provider.Finally, send your brain to Harvard. Your grandchildren will be proud of you.more
For me, not enough "hard science" - entirely too much time spent on the metaphysical - too "new age" for me. I learned from this but would not use this as a guide or resource.more
This was an easy read, but I was not impressed by it at all. I have a BA in neuroscience and I was expecting more science and less hippie propaganda. I am interested in neurogenesis and was hoping to hear more about how Taylor's brain changed as she recovered her left hemisphere facilities, but there was none of that at all. I also did not really approve of the way the author demonized the left hemisphere, depicting it as the source of all our selfish and negative emotions. The only people I would recommend this book to are those who have friends and loved ones who have suffered similar strokes as this book definitely offers some solid advice as to how to relate to stroke victims and help them recover.more
Jill Botle Taylor is a scientist who studies the anatomy of the brain. In 1996, at the age of 37, she suffered a massive stroke that took much of her left hemisphere offline and required eight years to completely recover from. During that time she got a remarkable firsthand informed-observer's view of her own brain as it partially shut down and then began slowly regaining function.Her descriptions of the stroke itself and the days following it are deeply interesting, and her attempts to inform readers about the symptoms of stroke and to offer advice for caregivers of stroke victims are laudable. But the insights she's taken from the experience are heavily tinged with a mushy, New Age-y quality that I have major issues with, and this shows up even in the chapters where she's supposedly just simply explaining the basic brain science, which I find annoying. (No doubt the author would say that I'm being far too left-brained. But, hell, I like my left brain. It's good at analyzing things to see if they make actual logical sense.)While reading this, I couldn't help wishing that a more skeptically minded brain scientist might have the same kind of stroke and write their impressions of it, because comparing the same general experiences filtered through two very different ways of interpreting things would be absolutely fascinating. And then, of course, I mentally smacked myself, because that's a horrible thing to wish for. Still...more
I feel bad rating this book so low. The premise was very interesting, however I felt like it was repetitive and a little boring; I really had to force myself to finish it. Also, the end sort of freaked me out when she started talking about communicating with her cells. Though the beginning and the end were rough, the middle section was really well done and easy to read. Still, I probably wouldn't recommend. Props to her for wanting to spread the message and advocate for stroke victims.more
Taylor's Stroke of Insight isn't just a compelling story of one woman's struggle to overcome a stroke (although that alone makes it worth the read). She's also created an excellent summary on brain anatomy and physiology that's relatively easy to understand. It's a true layman's look into brain design, function and capabilities, as well as some of the science behind healthy positive thinking. After reading this book, I feel confident that my brain can change ingrained, negative emotional responses, better use all that left-brain chatter and experience greater peace and creativity in the right side of my mind. With all that good information, it's easy to overlook the instances where I disagree with Taylor concerning faith and theology.more
Why is a book about a brain scientist's experience of having a stroke gracing the pages of my religion blog?Because it was a religious experience. Jill's massive stroke caused the left half of her brain to shut down. The side responsible for linear, logical thinking. So what remains?It’s not so much that the two hemispheres process different information; a person can survive with only half a brain. The difference is in the way the two sides think. To the right side, no time exists but the present moment, and each moment is vitally alive, the moment of now being timeless and abundant. Our right mind is the big-picture side, spontaneous and carefree, imaginative and artistic, uninhibited and empathic. We walk in the shoes of another and feel their feelings from the right side of our brain.By contrast, the left side of our brain is detail-oriented. It is organized and deductive, logical and analytical, able to divide past from present from future. Our left brain conquers the world we live in. Our left brain is also the part of us most responsible for identifying the I. It carefully draws the boundaries between us and the rest of the world, protects us from hurt, preserves our precious identity. It revels in our individuality and strives for our independence.So, what happens when you find all sense of I gone, and you're left swimming in a universal and eternal sea of brotherhood, suddenly at one with the universe? And, more important: Can we tap the right side of our brains?Drive fast to your bookstore and pick up this book. Go now.more
Fascinating first-person account of the experience of having a massive stroke, from a neuroanatomist. In this one short volume, Taylor accomplishes two very different, but equally important goals.First, she provides a guide to recovery from stroke, including advice for caregivers, health-care providers, and stroke survivors. If you know someone who's had a stroke, this is invaluable.Second, for a more general audience, is her memoir of a life free of the left brain's critical, negative, judging functions. Here is a short quote that offers a taste of her insights:"The two halves of my brain don't just perceive and think in different ways at a neurological level, but they demonstrate very different values based upon the types of information they perceive, and thus exhibit very different personalities. My stroke of insight is that at the core of my right hemisphere consciousness is a character that is directly connected to my feeling of deep inner peace. It is completely committed to the expression of peace, love, joy, and compassion in the world."The unexpected result is that this book about stroke becomes a spiritual guide for anyone seeking a more balanced life. I strongly recommend it.more
Fascinating look at how the brain works, from the inside. The author is a neuroanatomist, so she understands clearly how brains are structured, and what areas do what functions. She also experienced a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain, and lived to tell about it. It took her 8 - 10 years to recover, but this is the story of that stroke, and what it did to her brain and to her mind, simultaneously. Fascinating and unique!more
Having a stroke must be hard enough for anyone. It must be that much harder to be a Harvard-trained brain scientist having a stroke, knowing what is happening to your brain as it happens.In December 1996, the author woke one morning knowing that something was very wrong with her. Within four hours, the left hemisphere of her brain had deteriorated to the point where she could no longer read, write, talk or understand what those squiggles were on her telephone keypad. While her logical left brain was shutting down (she was able to get help in time), her intuitive right brain gave her a feeling of total peace and being at one with the universe (not necessarily a bad thing). Taylor is able to give an almost blow-by-blow description as her brain shut down. For instance, when she loses the ability to speak, that means that a spot called Broca’s Area is affected.Taylor’s type of stroke was called an arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal arterial configuration. Even though it’s a rare type of stroke, it’s the most common type of stroke for younger sufferers (Taylor was 37 years old when she suffered her stroke). After several days in the hospital, she was sent home with her mother, who had come to help nurse her back to health. The plan was to get her as well, and as strong, as possible, because the operation to fix her arterial malformation, a stereotactic craniotomy, was coming. She survived, and over the next several years, was able to put her brain back together, leaving out the unpleasant and negative parts.During her recovery, Taylor learned the things that caregivers should, and should not, do to help stroke patients. Make eye contact with me. Honor the healing power of sleep. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. Please don’t raise your voice. Keep visits brief. Ask me multiple-choice questions, not Yes/No questions. Break all actions down into smaller steps. Don’t finish my sentences or fill in words I can’t find.This is a really interesting book. On one level, it looks inside the brain to show just what happens during a stroke; good for stroke victims or caregivers. On another level, it shows that the two lobes of the brain have very different personalities. It’s very much worth reading.more
This is a very interesting book and is eye opening on what happens when a person goes the debilitating effects of a stroke. Dr. Taylor can recount a unique tale because of her own education on the workings of the brain. The fact that she can remember all the detail that is written in the book is quite amazing and I sure will be invaluable for those treating or living with stroke victims. I also found the book applicable to understanding how to teach, as Dr. Taylor essentially has to learn many things from scratch that are taken for granted.more
nonfiction, ---pages, written by a brain scientist who had a stroke followed by a remarkable recovery. she chronicles her experiences in detail, through the stroke, hospitalization, and years of recovery. easy to read nonfiction, educational and compelling human interest story; relationship with her mother of interest. also some self-help elements, how to control our emotional responses to things, how to be happier, how to recognize a stroke, how to recover from one/help someone recover.more
MY STROKE OF INSIGHT is a neuroanatomist's account of observing entire sections of her brain going offline during a stroke she incurred at age 39. She also describes her rehab and her recovery. But the fascinating part of the book for me was her discovery of the treasures buried in her right cerebral hemisphere. That hemisphere took full control when much of her left hemisphere was crippled by the stroke. The left hemisphere eventually recovered, but the author stayed in touch with her right brain afterward and is able to turn to it when she wants to. She's able to summon up the sense of peace and connectedness that her right brain sustained her with during her cerebral trauma and and her long recovery.Equally importantly, the author has been able to make choices in recovering old thought patterns buried in the left brain. To hear her tell it, she becomes aware when neural circuits that have recovered are being accessed, and she's presented with a deliberate choice whether or not to all those circuits to be accessed. Rather than simply reacting to an incident with anger or resentment, she's presented with an opportunity to play the tape forward before yielding to old reactions. And much of the time, she realizes that the old reactions didn't serve her very well and instead opts for acceptance. MY STROKE OF INSIGHT is a story of recovery. While it's ostensibly about physical recovery from a traumatic brain injury, it's also an allegory for recovery from substance abuse. There's very little talk of God in the book, but a lot about spirituality.more
This is very good book. About 10yrs ago I had a stroke & did many of the things to recover that she did. I knew about the left/right hemispheres of the brain but this book gave me furthet information.more
This is a book about a neuroanatomist who suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. Apart from the first three chapters, which explain to us in detail the structure of the brain, with its two halves, detail necessary for us to understand what happened to the author, the first part of the book reads like a thriller and is unputdownable.She, Jill, wakes up early one morning to a sharp pain behind her left eye. This is the beginning of a blow-by-blow account of her haemorrhage. This takes place in the left, logical, side of her brain. The account is fascinating, in that we experience Jill's gradual awareness of the fact that something absolutely serious is happening, something she realizes she will have to do something about, get help with, while at the same time she is more and more being drawn into the euphoria and now-consciousness of the right side of the brain. The left side was gradually filling up with blood and her ability to move, talk, and think logically, was disappearing. Part of her knew that she had to act quickly, but she was constantly distracted by the wondrous feeling of being one with the universe (not to mention by the splitting headache). It was a struggle to focus enough to find out what to do to get help, and how to do it. Who to call, what number to call, and how to call a number.Eventually of course, as we can figure out, she does manage to alert the world to her predicament. After a brain operation and aided by her loving mother and much sleep, she gradually returns to health, though it takes her eight years fully to regain her faculties. Of course she needs to learn how to walk, talk, read and understand numbers, the latter proving to be the most difficult.Now, I believe that everything happens for a reason. And Jill herself later realized how fortunate she was to have the whole experience, that enabled her to release a number of negative characteristics and create a new Jill with a new understanding of the fact that we are all connected to each other and to the universe: all we have to do to contact "Nirvana" is to quieten the left half of the brain.Owing to this personal experience of the very differing characteristics of the two sides of the brain, Jill obtains a new understanding of the field of her work, neuroanatomy.Perhaps the most important part of the book are the final chapters, where the author explains her new-found insights, how she can control her thoughts (not continue to dwell on negative ones) and return to the now. She can thereby choose to be loving and peaceful (as exemplified by her right brain) no matter the circumstances.She quotes a Dr. Jerry Jesseph as saying "Peace should be where we begin and not where we strive to get to." (I read this book in translation, so the wording of the quote may not be exactly correct.) This is practically the same thing as I have recently read in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh. He quotes A. J. Muste as saying "There is no path to peace, peace is the path." (Same comment as previously as regards wording.)Jill realizes that the way we think, what we say to ourselves, is decisive for our mental health. (Abraham, as revealed in the books of Esther and Jerry Hicks, goes much further and teaches us that the way we think is also decisive for our physical health, and in general for everything that happens to us in life.)Jill's stroke (of insight) is thus veritably life-changing and this book, in which she communicates her insights to us, offers us all a chance to change our lives correspondingly without we too having to suffer a stroke first.Deep inner peace is just a thought/feeling away. And peace is experienced in the now (again exactly as formulated by Thich Nhat Hanh).The book contains two useful appendices designed to help others in the same situation as she was. The first appendix comprises questions by which to assess the state of your brain (to help to alert you to the possible necessity of seeking immediate help). The second appendix contains forty pieces of advice to caregivers attending to those who have suffered a stroke or the like, advice about how most respectfully to treat the patient.I strongly recommend that you all read this book. Not only will it be extremely useful to all those with relations who suffer something similar, but will also in general help every-one to lead their lives more successfully.more
My father had a stroke the same day that i picked this up from the library and he suffered from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm almost fifteen years ago, so I found this book to be useful at explaining what happened to him and the thoughts that may be going on inside his head.more
Truly fascinating tale of a brain scientist herself experiencing a stroke, and the insights she gets from the process of relearning to use her left brain again. What she learns about how the brain works, how each side of our brain has an effect on our personality and how we can use this knowledge, are what makes this book worth reading. She is not a brilliant writer and must have had an even less brilliant editor, but this is worth overlooking, so that you can share her extraordinary insight into how the brain works - and how we can put this knowledge to use. I read the Norwegian translation of this book - beyond awful, partly because the flowery language of Bolte Taylor works best in English, partly because it was a very bad translation. Which brings me to the golden rule of reading: if you can, always read a book in the language it was written....more
I was expecting a little bit more science, and a little less "we are the world.". I appreciate that Taylor's experience has made her value life and her experiences, but it felt too personal to be applied to my life and too self-help to be interesting as a memoir.more
This story is just remarkable. That this type of stroke would happen to a women who could completely understand what was happening to her is crazy! It was a quick read and extremely accessible. The first section describing how your basic brain works, second going through the actual stroke, and the third and most (to me) meaningful section on her recovery and the personal choices and realizations she made about her life and the way she would choose to live it.I found a lot here. Much of it familiar in a self-helpy, self-awareness kind of way, but again, to me, it resonated and gave me some hope that I could perhaps work on rewiring my own regular old brain!more
Absolutely BRILLIANT! An account of a stroke and recovery by a brain scientist who experienced it. It is more than just an amazing eye-opener into the mechanisms of a stroke and all that it takes to recover from it; it's also a book on how best to live your life. Yes, as simple and incredible as that. I got this book from the library but I am definitely going to buy a copy for my own library, because there is no doubt in my mind that I will be re-reading it a number of times.more
Wow! If you can get past the sometimes confusing medical jargon, this is a fascinating book about a woman's (who happens to be a brain scientist) journey through suffering and recovering from a massive stroke. The stroke was caused by a blood vessel exploding in the left hemisphere of her brain which consequentially debilitated her capacity to speak, read, write, walk, talk and remember anything about her life. However, the right hemisphere of her brain was intact as her senses of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell were heightened. I learned how incredibly different our left and right hemispheres are and how most of us unconciously value our left hemisphere over our right hemisphere when in actuality our right hemisphere is what pretty much holds the key to our mental well-being. I also learned that people who suffer from head injuries are still very much present inside their bodies.more
Oh, I wanted so badly to love this book. I watched Taylor's talk on TED and was captivated and inspired. This woman, with so much knowledge about the brain, got to watch, then tell about, the speedy disintegration of functioning in her own brain. Speaking for just over 18 minutes, Taylor summarizes her credentials as a neuro-anatomist, explains the functions of the two hemispheres of the brain, describes the events surrounding her stroke, and inspires viewers to choose to inhabit the right hemisphere of our brains more fully, which just might lead to world peace. Her talk is dramatic, poetic, intelligent, funny, and, ultimately, inspiring.I was so looking forward to reading the book for more of this goodness! Instead, though the book was interesting, it wasn't nearly as captivating as her talk. The writing was flat, and seemed to be aimed at a very unsophisticated reader. The magic, the nirvana available to us all described so engagingly in the talk was diluted by Taylor's insistent, almost childlike repetition. There are many useful bits in this book. It's a good primer on brain structure and function, complete with illustrations. There are some good tips about caring for someone with a brain injury, though the tips are presented as instructions, rather than good ideas that worked for her. It offers compelling reasons for us to donate our brains to the Brain Trust. Compassion figures prominently.So, not a bad book, but not as great as it could have been. Watch the TED talk.more
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Reviews

Jill Bolte Taylor's tribute to the right brain is a fascinating auto-exploration of her experience of a left side hemorrhagic stroke, and her eight year long recovery process. The stroke performed a temporary lesion of the language and related functions of her left brain, leaving her awash in feelings of mystical unity and connection to the universe. In short, it sounds like she was tripping. It put her in touch with her right brain, enabled her to find her soul, and enabled her to write a book that integrates neuroanotomy and medicine with spiritual and emotional wisdom. Looking back she is genuinely grateful for the experience of stroke. Not a bad day's work for a bleeding arteriovenous malformation (AVM) at age 37.

That said, I've got some problems with this book. The first involves the epistemological status of the stroke narrative itself, particularly that of the first few hours. It is beautifully written, but it is of course written, and written long after the fact. Because it is writing about the very experience of losing language itself, it is at least a problematic text. Clearly there must be a significant measure of reconstruction. Memories that by her own account cannot have been verbal or left brain based must have been translated and re-presented as words. As long as we keep this literary/physiological fudge in mind, the account itself is interesting, even fascinating. Taylor enables us to experience in words the experience of someone who has awakened to the fact that she has lost her words. We have the impression that she could picture, as a neuroanatomist, what was actually happening to her brain, or does she mean only to imply that she has reconstructed this afterwards? It's not clear. And so we have to keep in mind that this is a creative fiction in some significant measure and not merely mimetic or directly representational. She is painting pictures of awarenesses that it is difficult to imagine that she could have had during the experience because they are such left brain thoughts. Neither her own impressive credentials as a scientist at the time, or her subsequent research, all of which create the literary experience that "you are there" should disguise the fact that in a certain left brain sense "she was not there" and had to apply words to her experiences much later. In some ways, this makes her literary achievement all the greater, but this perhaps should be differentiated from a scientific text. Any introspective narrative faces this problem, but an introspective narrative about the loss of language is even more problematic.

The deeper problem that I have, however, with this text, and it may not be your problem but it is certainly mine, is that I don't believe in the right brain, as a matter of religion. If I am to choose a side in the brain wars, I must believe in the left brain. My God is not the god of oceanic feelings of oneness, or of wordless emotional connection, or even of feelings at all. My God is the god of symbols, time and linearity. I believe in words and symbols and I believe through words and symbols. I consider the human capacity for logic and reason to be the purest distillation of divinity (or if you prefer the greatest achievement of evolution... all the same to me.)

My heart and my soul are in my left brain, not my right brain. I like my right brain well enough, but I'm just not that into it. And when I read the later chapters of this book, with all of Dr. Taylor's odes to emotional awareness and right brain connectivity, it just makes me feel all cynical and angry. That's not going to feed my children! That's not going to feed the world. It's all very well for you, Dr. Taylor, to preach about emotional wholeness (who could be against that? not me!) but I'm running out of money and I've got a family to feed. I really don't have time to hang out and get more in touch with myself. I need to reason my way out of this box of life that I'm trapped in, and no one is paying me to observe my circuitry and heal my soul. I don't think I've expressed the full extent of my cynicism yet, but I'm trying.

Sure I've had a few artificially induced right brain experiences, and sure I've done enough therapy to believe that our right brains are real and have a certain importance. But that's not where God is. No way. God is doing multiplication tables, and calculating functions. God is reasoning through logical possibilities. God is law and justice. God is language. God is in the left brain. God is what a microprocessor does. And while I readily grant that God needs a friendly working relationship with the Shekina, the indwelling presence, if you will, or the right brain if you must, I just don't think I could live in that kind of holiness for very long. I have too much I want to get done before I die, and time is short.

I'm happy that Dr. Taylor is happy. I suspect it has way more to do with the fact that she has a nice position with the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute and the Indiana University School of Medicine and has written a book that has garnered lots of attention, than it has to do with the strokes of insight she gained when half her brain winked out. It's the writing and sense she made of that event, not the time of oceanic oneness itself, that she herself acknowledges was necessary to feel whole again. She still values the time when her left brain disappeared for awhile. I've had experiences like that of a lesser degree, but I'm not so convinced that they amount to a hill of beans. We'd both probably agree that you wouldn't want to live only on the right side of the brain.
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A strange and fascinating trip through the brain via one woman 's trauma and recovery. it gets a little oogy boogy at the end -- not that I am anti-oogy boogy talk but I am aware that many people get turned off by any mention of inner peace or unseen energies, but this is a scientist talking and really, it made sense to me.more
chronicles the author's recovery from a stroke. I really enjoyed the last chapter "Finding Your Inner Peace" and found some good insights here for anyone irregardless of having a stroke or serious illness.more
Useful, if repetitive first-hand account of a brain in crisis, told from the informed point of view of a scientist who experienced much of what she'd previously studied from the outside. Her non-technical explanations of basic brain-functioning are useful, and her insights on essential patient-support are presented with the convincing urgency they deserve. Unfortunately the Author feels compelled to introduce her own theology into the account, expressing it in terms of neurological science and her own experience. That's her prerogative, of-course, and one must admire her seriousness of purpose. Still, many readers, including God-believers like myself, will find themselves less than convinced.more
If you or anyone you care about has had or is at risk of stroke, this relatively short book can help you understand not only the physiology of stroke but also the (sometimes surprising) keys to maximal rehabilitation. This is the firsthand account of coming back from a stroke by a person well-qualified to describe it.more
Substance: The author, a neuroanatomist, suffered a stroke at a relatively early age (early forties?) and retained sufficient cortical function to understand what was happening during her episode, treatment, and eventual recovery. Her insights into the condition of other patients is stimulating and encouraging. Her own problem involved the "silencing" of the "left brain", and how she had to "train" herself to compensate and then re-learn functions as the brain recuperated and resumed "normal" operation. Contains insights tinot the spiritual connection of the right-brain when the lift-brain is silenced.Most important are the author's detailed list of what a patient needs to have and to do for recovery.NOTES: It's kind of scary that a brain-doctor didn't recognize the symptoms of stroke for several hours while it was in progress.The cover illustration is a photograph of a stained-glass brain that she created, as part of her therapy activities.more
This is a very readable book (I read mine while waiting to be selected for a trial for jury duty), but it still contains many nuggets of value. Of particular value are the advice she gives health care providers: Don't shout. Make eye contact. Allow the patient to sleep since it is through sleep that we heal our bodies and our brains.This is probably not the book Taylor would have written prior to the stroke when she still worked as a brain researcher. She never quite said whether she recovered to the extent she could have returned to that work. My guess is that she no longer could, but I do believe we should value persons for the degrees at the end of their names (I only have two), or by how esoteric their career sounds. If you are interested in the science behind the brain or strokes, this is not the book for you.The book contains an appendix with a series of questions a stroke patient's advocate can ask the health care provider.Finally, send your brain to Harvard. Your grandchildren will be proud of you.more
For me, not enough "hard science" - entirely too much time spent on the metaphysical - too "new age" for me. I learned from this but would not use this as a guide or resource.more
This was an easy read, but I was not impressed by it at all. I have a BA in neuroscience and I was expecting more science and less hippie propaganda. I am interested in neurogenesis and was hoping to hear more about how Taylor's brain changed as she recovered her left hemisphere facilities, but there was none of that at all. I also did not really approve of the way the author demonized the left hemisphere, depicting it as the source of all our selfish and negative emotions. The only people I would recommend this book to are those who have friends and loved ones who have suffered similar strokes as this book definitely offers some solid advice as to how to relate to stroke victims and help them recover.more
Jill Botle Taylor is a scientist who studies the anatomy of the brain. In 1996, at the age of 37, she suffered a massive stroke that took much of her left hemisphere offline and required eight years to completely recover from. During that time she got a remarkable firsthand informed-observer's view of her own brain as it partially shut down and then began slowly regaining function.Her descriptions of the stroke itself and the days following it are deeply interesting, and her attempts to inform readers about the symptoms of stroke and to offer advice for caregivers of stroke victims are laudable. But the insights she's taken from the experience are heavily tinged with a mushy, New Age-y quality that I have major issues with, and this shows up even in the chapters where she's supposedly just simply explaining the basic brain science, which I find annoying. (No doubt the author would say that I'm being far too left-brained. But, hell, I like my left brain. It's good at analyzing things to see if they make actual logical sense.)While reading this, I couldn't help wishing that a more skeptically minded brain scientist might have the same kind of stroke and write their impressions of it, because comparing the same general experiences filtered through two very different ways of interpreting things would be absolutely fascinating. And then, of course, I mentally smacked myself, because that's a horrible thing to wish for. Still...more
I feel bad rating this book so low. The premise was very interesting, however I felt like it was repetitive and a little boring; I really had to force myself to finish it. Also, the end sort of freaked me out when she started talking about communicating with her cells. Though the beginning and the end were rough, the middle section was really well done and easy to read. Still, I probably wouldn't recommend. Props to her for wanting to spread the message and advocate for stroke victims.more
Taylor's Stroke of Insight isn't just a compelling story of one woman's struggle to overcome a stroke (although that alone makes it worth the read). She's also created an excellent summary on brain anatomy and physiology that's relatively easy to understand. It's a true layman's look into brain design, function and capabilities, as well as some of the science behind healthy positive thinking. After reading this book, I feel confident that my brain can change ingrained, negative emotional responses, better use all that left-brain chatter and experience greater peace and creativity in the right side of my mind. With all that good information, it's easy to overlook the instances where I disagree with Taylor concerning faith and theology.more
Why is a book about a brain scientist's experience of having a stroke gracing the pages of my religion blog?Because it was a religious experience. Jill's massive stroke caused the left half of her brain to shut down. The side responsible for linear, logical thinking. So what remains?It’s not so much that the two hemispheres process different information; a person can survive with only half a brain. The difference is in the way the two sides think. To the right side, no time exists but the present moment, and each moment is vitally alive, the moment of now being timeless and abundant. Our right mind is the big-picture side, spontaneous and carefree, imaginative and artistic, uninhibited and empathic. We walk in the shoes of another and feel their feelings from the right side of our brain.By contrast, the left side of our brain is detail-oriented. It is organized and deductive, logical and analytical, able to divide past from present from future. Our left brain conquers the world we live in. Our left brain is also the part of us most responsible for identifying the I. It carefully draws the boundaries between us and the rest of the world, protects us from hurt, preserves our precious identity. It revels in our individuality and strives for our independence.So, what happens when you find all sense of I gone, and you're left swimming in a universal and eternal sea of brotherhood, suddenly at one with the universe? And, more important: Can we tap the right side of our brains?Drive fast to your bookstore and pick up this book. Go now.more
Fascinating first-person account of the experience of having a massive stroke, from a neuroanatomist. In this one short volume, Taylor accomplishes two very different, but equally important goals.First, she provides a guide to recovery from stroke, including advice for caregivers, health-care providers, and stroke survivors. If you know someone who's had a stroke, this is invaluable.Second, for a more general audience, is her memoir of a life free of the left brain's critical, negative, judging functions. Here is a short quote that offers a taste of her insights:"The two halves of my brain don't just perceive and think in different ways at a neurological level, but they demonstrate very different values based upon the types of information they perceive, and thus exhibit very different personalities. My stroke of insight is that at the core of my right hemisphere consciousness is a character that is directly connected to my feeling of deep inner peace. It is completely committed to the expression of peace, love, joy, and compassion in the world."The unexpected result is that this book about stroke becomes a spiritual guide for anyone seeking a more balanced life. I strongly recommend it.more
Fascinating look at how the brain works, from the inside. The author is a neuroanatomist, so she understands clearly how brains are structured, and what areas do what functions. She also experienced a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain, and lived to tell about it. It took her 8 - 10 years to recover, but this is the story of that stroke, and what it did to her brain and to her mind, simultaneously. Fascinating and unique!more
Having a stroke must be hard enough for anyone. It must be that much harder to be a Harvard-trained brain scientist having a stroke, knowing what is happening to your brain as it happens.In December 1996, the author woke one morning knowing that something was very wrong with her. Within four hours, the left hemisphere of her brain had deteriorated to the point where she could no longer read, write, talk or understand what those squiggles were on her telephone keypad. While her logical left brain was shutting down (she was able to get help in time), her intuitive right brain gave her a feeling of total peace and being at one with the universe (not necessarily a bad thing). Taylor is able to give an almost blow-by-blow description as her brain shut down. For instance, when she loses the ability to speak, that means that a spot called Broca’s Area is affected.Taylor’s type of stroke was called an arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal arterial configuration. Even though it’s a rare type of stroke, it’s the most common type of stroke for younger sufferers (Taylor was 37 years old when she suffered her stroke). After several days in the hospital, she was sent home with her mother, who had come to help nurse her back to health. The plan was to get her as well, and as strong, as possible, because the operation to fix her arterial malformation, a stereotactic craniotomy, was coming. She survived, and over the next several years, was able to put her brain back together, leaving out the unpleasant and negative parts.During her recovery, Taylor learned the things that caregivers should, and should not, do to help stroke patients. Make eye contact with me. Honor the healing power of sleep. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. Please don’t raise your voice. Keep visits brief. Ask me multiple-choice questions, not Yes/No questions. Break all actions down into smaller steps. Don’t finish my sentences or fill in words I can’t find.This is a really interesting book. On one level, it looks inside the brain to show just what happens during a stroke; good for stroke victims or caregivers. On another level, it shows that the two lobes of the brain have very different personalities. It’s very much worth reading.more
This is a very interesting book and is eye opening on what happens when a person goes the debilitating effects of a stroke. Dr. Taylor can recount a unique tale because of her own education on the workings of the brain. The fact that she can remember all the detail that is written in the book is quite amazing and I sure will be invaluable for those treating or living with stroke victims. I also found the book applicable to understanding how to teach, as Dr. Taylor essentially has to learn many things from scratch that are taken for granted.more
nonfiction, ---pages, written by a brain scientist who had a stroke followed by a remarkable recovery. she chronicles her experiences in detail, through the stroke, hospitalization, and years of recovery. easy to read nonfiction, educational and compelling human interest story; relationship with her mother of interest. also some self-help elements, how to control our emotional responses to things, how to be happier, how to recognize a stroke, how to recover from one/help someone recover.more
MY STROKE OF INSIGHT is a neuroanatomist's account of observing entire sections of her brain going offline during a stroke she incurred at age 39. She also describes her rehab and her recovery. But the fascinating part of the book for me was her discovery of the treasures buried in her right cerebral hemisphere. That hemisphere took full control when much of her left hemisphere was crippled by the stroke. The left hemisphere eventually recovered, but the author stayed in touch with her right brain afterward and is able to turn to it when she wants to. She's able to summon up the sense of peace and connectedness that her right brain sustained her with during her cerebral trauma and and her long recovery.Equally importantly, the author has been able to make choices in recovering old thought patterns buried in the left brain. To hear her tell it, she becomes aware when neural circuits that have recovered are being accessed, and she's presented with a deliberate choice whether or not to all those circuits to be accessed. Rather than simply reacting to an incident with anger or resentment, she's presented with an opportunity to play the tape forward before yielding to old reactions. And much of the time, she realizes that the old reactions didn't serve her very well and instead opts for acceptance. MY STROKE OF INSIGHT is a story of recovery. While it's ostensibly about physical recovery from a traumatic brain injury, it's also an allegory for recovery from substance abuse. There's very little talk of God in the book, but a lot about spirituality.more
This is very good book. About 10yrs ago I had a stroke & did many of the things to recover that she did. I knew about the left/right hemispheres of the brain but this book gave me furthet information.more
This is a book about a neuroanatomist who suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. Apart from the first three chapters, which explain to us in detail the structure of the brain, with its two halves, detail necessary for us to understand what happened to the author, the first part of the book reads like a thriller and is unputdownable.She, Jill, wakes up early one morning to a sharp pain behind her left eye. This is the beginning of a blow-by-blow account of her haemorrhage. This takes place in the left, logical, side of her brain. The account is fascinating, in that we experience Jill's gradual awareness of the fact that something absolutely serious is happening, something she realizes she will have to do something about, get help with, while at the same time she is more and more being drawn into the euphoria and now-consciousness of the right side of the brain. The left side was gradually filling up with blood and her ability to move, talk, and think logically, was disappearing. Part of her knew that she had to act quickly, but she was constantly distracted by the wondrous feeling of being one with the universe (not to mention by the splitting headache). It was a struggle to focus enough to find out what to do to get help, and how to do it. Who to call, what number to call, and how to call a number.Eventually of course, as we can figure out, she does manage to alert the world to her predicament. After a brain operation and aided by her loving mother and much sleep, she gradually returns to health, though it takes her eight years fully to regain her faculties. Of course she needs to learn how to walk, talk, read and understand numbers, the latter proving to be the most difficult.Now, I believe that everything happens for a reason. And Jill herself later realized how fortunate she was to have the whole experience, that enabled her to release a number of negative characteristics and create a new Jill with a new understanding of the fact that we are all connected to each other and to the universe: all we have to do to contact "Nirvana" is to quieten the left half of the brain.Owing to this personal experience of the very differing characteristics of the two sides of the brain, Jill obtains a new understanding of the field of her work, neuroanatomy.Perhaps the most important part of the book are the final chapters, where the author explains her new-found insights, how she can control her thoughts (not continue to dwell on negative ones) and return to the now. She can thereby choose to be loving and peaceful (as exemplified by her right brain) no matter the circumstances.She quotes a Dr. Jerry Jesseph as saying "Peace should be where we begin and not where we strive to get to." (I read this book in translation, so the wording of the quote may not be exactly correct.) This is practically the same thing as I have recently read in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh. He quotes A. J. Muste as saying "There is no path to peace, peace is the path." (Same comment as previously as regards wording.)Jill realizes that the way we think, what we say to ourselves, is decisive for our mental health. (Abraham, as revealed in the books of Esther and Jerry Hicks, goes much further and teaches us that the way we think is also decisive for our physical health, and in general for everything that happens to us in life.)Jill's stroke (of insight) is thus veritably life-changing and this book, in which she communicates her insights to us, offers us all a chance to change our lives correspondingly without we too having to suffer a stroke first.Deep inner peace is just a thought/feeling away. And peace is experienced in the now (again exactly as formulated by Thich Nhat Hanh).The book contains two useful appendices designed to help others in the same situation as she was. The first appendix comprises questions by which to assess the state of your brain (to help to alert you to the possible necessity of seeking immediate help). The second appendix contains forty pieces of advice to caregivers attending to those who have suffered a stroke or the like, advice about how most respectfully to treat the patient.I strongly recommend that you all read this book. Not only will it be extremely useful to all those with relations who suffer something similar, but will also in general help every-one to lead their lives more successfully.more
My father had a stroke the same day that i picked this up from the library and he suffered from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm almost fifteen years ago, so I found this book to be useful at explaining what happened to him and the thoughts that may be going on inside his head.more
Truly fascinating tale of a brain scientist herself experiencing a stroke, and the insights she gets from the process of relearning to use her left brain again. What she learns about how the brain works, how each side of our brain has an effect on our personality and how we can use this knowledge, are what makes this book worth reading. She is not a brilliant writer and must have had an even less brilliant editor, but this is worth overlooking, so that you can share her extraordinary insight into how the brain works - and how we can put this knowledge to use. I read the Norwegian translation of this book - beyond awful, partly because the flowery language of Bolte Taylor works best in English, partly because it was a very bad translation. Which brings me to the golden rule of reading: if you can, always read a book in the language it was written....more
I was expecting a little bit more science, and a little less "we are the world.". I appreciate that Taylor's experience has made her value life and her experiences, but it felt too personal to be applied to my life and too self-help to be interesting as a memoir.more
This story is just remarkable. That this type of stroke would happen to a women who could completely understand what was happening to her is crazy! It was a quick read and extremely accessible. The first section describing how your basic brain works, second going through the actual stroke, and the third and most (to me) meaningful section on her recovery and the personal choices and realizations she made about her life and the way she would choose to live it.I found a lot here. Much of it familiar in a self-helpy, self-awareness kind of way, but again, to me, it resonated and gave me some hope that I could perhaps work on rewiring my own regular old brain!more
Absolutely BRILLIANT! An account of a stroke and recovery by a brain scientist who experienced it. It is more than just an amazing eye-opener into the mechanisms of a stroke and all that it takes to recover from it; it's also a book on how best to live your life. Yes, as simple and incredible as that. I got this book from the library but I am definitely going to buy a copy for my own library, because there is no doubt in my mind that I will be re-reading it a number of times.more
Wow! If you can get past the sometimes confusing medical jargon, this is a fascinating book about a woman's (who happens to be a brain scientist) journey through suffering and recovering from a massive stroke. The stroke was caused by a blood vessel exploding in the left hemisphere of her brain which consequentially debilitated her capacity to speak, read, write, walk, talk and remember anything about her life. However, the right hemisphere of her brain was intact as her senses of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell were heightened. I learned how incredibly different our left and right hemispheres are and how most of us unconciously value our left hemisphere over our right hemisphere when in actuality our right hemisphere is what pretty much holds the key to our mental well-being. I also learned that people who suffer from head injuries are still very much present inside their bodies.more
Oh, I wanted so badly to love this book. I watched Taylor's talk on TED and was captivated and inspired. This woman, with so much knowledge about the brain, got to watch, then tell about, the speedy disintegration of functioning in her own brain. Speaking for just over 18 minutes, Taylor summarizes her credentials as a neuro-anatomist, explains the functions of the two hemispheres of the brain, describes the events surrounding her stroke, and inspires viewers to choose to inhabit the right hemisphere of our brains more fully, which just might lead to world peace. Her talk is dramatic, poetic, intelligent, funny, and, ultimately, inspiring.I was so looking forward to reading the book for more of this goodness! Instead, though the book was interesting, it wasn't nearly as captivating as her talk. The writing was flat, and seemed to be aimed at a very unsophisticated reader. The magic, the nirvana available to us all described so engagingly in the talk was diluted by Taylor's insistent, almost childlike repetition. There are many useful bits in this book. It's a good primer on brain structure and function, complete with illustrations. There are some good tips about caring for someone with a brain injury, though the tips are presented as instructions, rather than good ideas that worked for her. It offers compelling reasons for us to donate our brains to the Brain Trust. Compassion figures prominently.So, not a bad book, but not as great as it could have been. Watch the TED talk.more
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