Stroke of Insight

Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist who specialises in the human brain and its relationship with schizophrenia and mental illness, in this TED talk she discusses her experience when she suffered a stroke.

Firstly she describes the different functions of the two hemispheres of the brain:

…because they process information differently, each of our hemisphere think about different things, they care about different things and dare I say they have very different personalities. (Bolte Taylor, 2008).

The right hemisphere:

  • Right here right now
  • Thinks in pictures
  • Learns kinaesthetically
  • No external world chatter
  • Can’t understand language

The left hemisphere:

  • Thinks linearly: details, analysis
  • Thinks in language/words
  • Understands past and future
  • Understanding of identity “I am”.

When Bolte Taylor had her stroke, it was an experience in which the left hemisphere of her brain was affected by a golf ball sized blood clot, and she experienced waves of clarity coming and going as the left hemisphere “went offline”:

Then I realised, oh my gosh, I’m having a stroke! And then the next thing my brain says to me is: This is so cool! How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out! (Bolte Taylor, 2008).

It is an incredible talk because it really highlights how much we sit in the left side of our brains, and how vast and strange the right hemisphere is.


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