My Stroke of Insight

My Stroke of Insight

A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey

Book - 2008
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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.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2008, c2006.
ISBN: 9780670020744
Characteristics: 183 p :,ill. ;,24 cm.


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Dr. Jill Taylor, a brain scientist in her mid-thirties at the Harvard Brain Bank, underwent a stroke that rendered her non-verbal and barely able to move in the course of a single morning. Over the next eight years Dr. Taylor worked to regain all of her cognitive and physical abilities, becoming completely healed. The book is her account of undergoing the stroke and her eight-year route to being whole once more. It is an amazingly detailed account of how the brain functions: what happens in the brain during the a stroke, and the brain’s miraculous capacity for recovery. For anyone who is caring for a stroke survivor, this book provides a wealth of clear and simple information on the conditions needed for healing. It was recommended to me by someone who had undergone a (minor) stroke himself – he loved it and so did I! The audio book is read by the author herself. (submitted by TH)

Dec 14, 2016

About plasticity of the brain. Really entertaining.

Jan 18, 2016

Jan 18 2016, I am not finished this book yet, but it will be one I will be recommending to everyone I know. I believe that Jill Bolte Taylor is a bit of a wonder woman, and while I don't believe I could ever accomplish what she has done, (either pre-stroke or post-stroke!) I found this book truly inspiring. I believe it will help me as I work with my Mom, (who is slowly losing it) and I certainly hope that if I ever have a stroke, or a brain injury of any kind, that someone in my circle of caregivers will have read this book! (Note: I read the book while listening to the audio book. The audio book is narrated by the author, and is a great addition to the book. However, there are several simple drawings in the book that would be missed, so if you can get them both at the same time, that would be ideal.) I see that another book 'Stronger after Stroke' is recommended below in another comment. I will check that one out as well.......Jan 21 2016, One point I will take away from this book is the fact that we only have to experience any one emotion for 90 seconds. After 90 seconds, we choose to remain in that emotion, or direct our brains in another direction. I will keep that in mind!

Nov 24, 2015

The book is not one thing or another. The subtitle "personal journey" tells all. Some brain science, some recovery advice (for this particular event), some mindfulness, though she doesn't call it that. It was recommended to me because I had had a stroke, but I found nothing helpful or insightful about it.

Nov 28, 2014

My rating is of the audiobook, read by Dr. Taylor herself. Not just another plucky inspirational memoir, this one is firmly grounded by Taylor's fierce intellectual curiosity and good humor. It gave me a whole new perspective on where in our brains our 'personality' actually resides, and started me on a new approach to my chronic depression.

Nov 27, 2014

Excellent read. I recommend this to everyone even if you think you aren't interested in strokes. I read this book after I watched Jill and Oprah's interview on youtube. Do both.

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 17, 2014

This story recounts Harvard trained neuroscientist Jill Taylor’s debilitating stroke and subsequent recovery. She explains the science of the brain, what happened during her stroke, the experience of losing her left brain functionality, and the state of inner peace observed from the functioning right hemisphere. Her insights into the needs of stroke patients provide an invaluable tool for caregivers and families of stroke patients.

Mar 27, 2014

I found this book very insightful into the actual experiences a person could have with a stroke. It was informative regarding what is needed by the person who has experienced a stroke. Of course, this would probably not apply to all persons since we are all unique and there are varying types of strokes. But, I suggest this title as a must read to help caregivers and family increase their awareness and understanding from the stroke suffers' point of view.

Feb 04, 2014

Contrary to other reviews, I'm not a fan of this book. While Ms. Bolte's story is interesting, it speaks to one type of rare stroke. I hope this book doesn't lead readers to believe that others who have had a stroke experience her nirvana-like world; especially those with right side arterial occlusions (a far more common stroke). Their experiences are very different. This book was recommended to me by a social worker after my husband had a stroke, and I found the book, "Stronger After Stroke" to be a much better resource.

bibliotechnocrat May 04, 2013

This is the fascinating account of a brain scientist who has a stroke. Because of her neurological training, she is able to identify and articulate the different brain functions affected as the trauma progresses. What's more, her observations will make you think about issues ranging from spiritual insight, to childhood perceptions.

It is an astonishing journey. Ordinarily, we don't think about the two halves of our brains working together because their cooperation is just given; in Bolte Taylor's case, the left brain gradually shuts down due to the stroke leaving her perceptions solely reliant on right brain functions. Her descriptions of a world perceived through the right brain sound exactly like the nirvana that the Buddha points toward. The absence of monkey-mind chatter, the timeless quality of the Now (which describe my memories of childhood), the deep inner peace - it's physiology meeting spirituality. If the case studies of Oliver Sacks interest you, you'll eat this book up.

The first three chapters focus on simplified neuroanatomy. If you're like me, and narrative works better than textbook study, start with chapter 4. The book also contains advice for helping people recover from brain trauma events.

Check our the author's TED talks lecture on Youtube.

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Mar 06, 2013

My soul was as big as the universe and frolicked with glee in a boundless sea. (p. 69)

I was simply a being of light radiating life into the world. (p. 71)

In the absence of my left hemisphere's negative judgment, I perceived myself as perfect, whole, and beautiful just the way I was. (p. 71)

Mar 11, 2012

Because everything around us – the air we breathe, even the materials we use to build with – are composed of spinning and vibrating atomic particles, you and I are literally swimming in a turbulent sea of electromagnetic fields.

Mar 11, 2012

I felt weak and wounded. My arm felt completely depleted of its intrinsic strength, yet I could wield it like a stub. I wondered if it would ever be normal again. Catching sight of my warm and cradling waterbed, I seemed to be beckoned by it on this cold winter morning in New England. _Oh, I am so tired. I feel so tired. I just want to rest. I just want to lie down and relax for a little while._ But resounding like thunder from deep within my being, a commanding voice spoke clearly to me: _If you lie down now you will never get up!_

Mar 11, 2012

I was aghast when I realized it was their plan to cut my head open! Any self-respecting neuroanatomist would _never_ allow anyone to cut their head open!

Mar 11, 2012

What a wonderful gift this stroke has been in permitting me to pick and choose who and how I want to be in the world. Before the stroke, I believed I was a product of this brain and that I had minimal say about how I felt or what I thought. Since the hemorrhage, my eyes have been opened to how much choice I actually have about what goes on between my ears.

Mar 11, 2012

Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time and energy degrading, insulting, and criticizing ourselves (and others) for having made a “wrong” or “bad” decision. When you berate yourself, have you ever questioned: Who inside of you is doing the yelling, and at whom are you yelling? Have you ever noticed how these negative internal thought patterns have the tendency to generate increased levels of inner hostility and/or raised levels of anxiety? And to complicate matters even more, have you noticed how negative internal dialogue can negatively influence how you treat others and, thus, what you attract?

Mar 11, 2012

There has been nothing more empowering than the realization that I don’t have to think thoughts that bring me pain. Of course there is nothing wrong with thinking about things that bring me pain as long as I am aware that I am choosing to engage in that emotional circuitry. At the same time, it is freeing to know that I have the conscious power to stop thinking those thoughts when I am satiated.

Mar 11, 2012

When my brain runs loops that feel harshly judgmental, counterproductive, or out of control, I wait ninety seconds for the emotional/physiological response to dissipate and then I speak to my brain as though it is a group of children. I say with sincerity, “I appreciate your ability to think thoughts and feel emotions, but I am really not interested in thinking these thoughts or feeling these emotions anymore. Please stop bringing this stuff up.” Essentially, I am consciously asking my brain to stop hooking into specific thought patterns. Different people do it differently of course. Some folks just use the phrase, ”Cancel! Cancel!” or they exclaim to their brain, “Busy! I’m too busy!” Or they say, “Enough, enough, enough already! Knock it off!”

Mar 11, 2012

Intuitively, I don’t question why I am subconsciously attracted to some people and situations, and yet repelled by others. I simply listen to my body and implicitly trust my instincts.

Mar 11, 2012

I love knowing that I am simultaneously (depending on which hemisphere you ask) as big as the universe and yet merely a heap of star dust.

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