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Friday, 29 March 2013

Jill Bolte Taylor - My Stroke of Insight

Ro Bennett reviewed live on bookshow 28th March 2013
On the morning of the 10th December 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 lost the ability to walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life, all within the space of four hours. As the damaged left side of her brain - the rational, logical, detail and time-oriented side - swung in an out of function, Taylor alternated between two distinct and opposite realities: the euphoric Nirvana of the intuitive and emotional right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace; and the logical left brain, that realized Jill was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was lost completely.

In My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey, Taylor brings to light a new perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery that she gained through the intimate experience of awakening her own injured mind. The journey to recovery took eight years for Jill to feel completely healed. Using her knowledge of how the brain works, her respect for the cells composing her human form, and an amazing mother, Taylor completely repaired her mind and recalibrated her understanding of the world according to the insight gained from her right brain that December morning.

About the Author
Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. is a neuroanatomist affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. She is the national spokesperson for the mentally ill at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (Brain Bank) and the consulting neuroanatomist for the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute. 

Jill’s  older brother was schizophrenic and she had often wondered what made his reality so very different from hers,  so this led her into becoming a neuro-anatomist in order to explore what goes wrong in the brains of those with Schizophrenia. 

I found this an inspirational and informative book. I wish I had read it before my brother had the stroke from which he subsequently died. I would have been more  aware of how to help him and how to communicate with him. One section deals with what Jill needed to recover which is very helpful, but it would be useful to have even more information on the nature of the care and therapy (speech, cognitive and physical) which enabled her to recover.

The book is easy to read, and although the couple of technical scientific chapters are more challenging, they are very useful and not too complicated. It starts with a short section on the brain and Jill’s early pre-stroke career. The middle section describes the actual stroke and how it affected her on all levels, followed by her subsequent recovery and re-engagement with normal life. The final part of the book is a mixture of advice for others, her personal take on life and further information on how she used and uses certain techniques to rewire her brain and to control her state of mind.

The author has been on Oprah and I watched the interview on You Tube and found it very interesting if very American in its presentation. Nevertheless it is well worth watching and the book is well worth reading. 
Ro Bennett

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