TED TALK: Jill Taylor’s Powerful Stroke of Insight

Probably the greatest lecture to ever blend Passion and Science.


Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight

What is it about my brain that allows me to take my dreams, connect them to my reality and make my dreams come true, while a my brother – who is diagnosed with schizophrenia- is unable to connect his dreams to a common and shared reality, so they instead become delusions?

Under Dr. Frances Benes, at Harvard Psychiatry, JBT as seeking answers to the question:
What are the biological differences between the brains of individuals who are normal compared with the brains of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective or bipolar disorder?
I.e. Mapping the micro circuitry in the brain; which cells are communicating with which cells, and with which chemicals and in what quantities?

December 10 1996
Blood vessel exploded in the left half of JBT’s Brain.
Over four Hours, her brain completely deteriorated in its ability to process all information. She could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of her life. She essentially became an infant in a women’s body.

The brain is organized into two Hemispheres. The two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another and they are connected by the corpus collosum.

The right hemisphere functions like a parallel processor.
The left hemisphere functions like a serial processor.
The corpus collosum allows interhemispehric communication through its 300 million axonal fibers.

Because they are completely separate and process information differently, the two hemispheres think about different things, they care about different things, and they have very different personalities.

Right Hemisphere
Parallel processor. It’s all about this present moment. “right here, right now”.
The RH thinks in pictures, and learns kinesthetically through movement of the body. Information in the form of energy streams in through all our sensory systems and then explodes into an enormous collage of what this moment looks like, smells like, tastes like, feels like, and what it sounds like.
You are an energy beings connected to the energy all around you through the consciousness of your RH’s.
We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our RH as one human family.

Left Hemisphere
Serial Processor. Thinks linearly and methodically. The LH is all about the past and all about the future, it is designed to take the enormous collage of the present moment (from the RH) and start picking out details, details and more details about those details, and then categorizes and organizes all that information, associates it with everything learned in the past and projects into the future all of our possibilities.
The LH thinks in language (as opposed to pictures as in the RH). It provides the ongoing brain chatter that connects our internal world to our external world.
What’s most important about the LH is the little voice that tells you “I AM”. This is what makes you separate, a single solid individual, separate from the energy flow around you and separate from others.

JBT lost this portion of the brain on the morning of her stroke.

Pounding pain behind left eye. Very caustic, just like biting into ice-cream. Grips and releases.
“ my hands looked like primitive claws”.
“ this is quite peculiar, im a weird looking thing”
“It was as if my conciseness had shifted away from my normal perception of reality, where im the person on the machine (exercising) having the experience, to some esoteric space where im witnessing myself having the experience “.
“I realized that everything inside my body has slowed and every step is very rigid and very deliberate, there’s no fluidity to my pace and there’s a constriction to my area of perception, so im just focused on internal systems.
“ in the shower I could actually hear the dialogue inside my body”
“OK, You muscles contract, you gotta contract… you muscles you relax”.
“ I then lost balance and propped against the wall. Looking down at my arm , I realize that I can no longer define the boundaries of my body, I can’t define where begin and where I end, because the atoms and the molecules of my arm blended with the atoms and the molecules of the wall, and all I could detect was this energy, energy, ”.
“What is wrong with me?”
LH brain chatter then went totally silent. “Mute button”
“ Then I was completely captivated by the presence of energy around me, and because I could no longer identify the bounderies of my body, I felt enormous and expansive, I felt at one with all the energy that was and it was beautiful there.

LH them comes back online” Hey, we got a problem, we gotta get some help”
JBT call this space LA LA LAND.

“It was beautiful there, imagine being totally disconnected from the chatter that connects you to the external world. All stress was gone. I felt lighter in my body “
“ imagine all the relationships in the external world and any stressors related to those were gone, and I felt peaceful there”
“ Imagine what it would feel like to lose 37 years of emotional baggage”.

LH “We got to get help, we gotta focus”
Right arm goes totally paralyzed.
“ WOW, this is so cool, how many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out”.

JBT couldn’t remember her work phone number, she decides to get it from a business card.
She could mentally imagine the card, but she could not make it out, since all she could see were pixels and the pixels of the words blended with the pixels of the background and the pixels of the symbols.
JBT waited for a moment of clarity where she would be able to reattach to normal reality and tell which card it is. It took 45 minutes to find the card.
On the phone. JBT used her right arm to dial the numbers and to remember which numbers where dialed. Talking on the phone, JBT could not understand speech and could barely speak. Help comes.

“And a little while later, I am riding in an ambulance from one hospital across Boston to [Massachusetts] General Hospital And I curl up into a little fetal ball. And just like a balloon with the last bit of air, just, just right out of the balloon, I just felt my energy lift and just — I felt my spirit surrender. And in that moment, I knew that I was no longer the choreographer of my life. And either the doctors rescue my body and give me a second chance at life, or this was perhaps my moment of transition.”

Hours later, JBT awoke shocked that she was still alive since she had already surrendered and said goodbye.
“My mind was suspended between two very opposite planes of reality. “
Stimulation from her sensory systems felt like pure pain.
“Light burned my brain like wildfire”
“Sounds were so loud and chaotic that I couldn’t pick a voice from the background noise”
“ I felt like I could not escape since I could not identify my position of my body in space, I felt enormous and expansive”.
“ My spirit soared free like a great while gliding through a sea of silent euphoria”
“ there is no way that I can squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside my little body”.
“ But im still alive, and I found nirvana, then everyone can find nirvana”

“ An I pictured a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate loving people who knew that they could come to space at any time and that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres to find this space.”

“ Then I realized, what a tremendous experience this could be, WHAT A STROKE OF INSIGHT THIS COULD BE, to how we live our lives. And it motivated me to recover.”

Two and a half weeks later, a blood clot the size of gold ball was removed from JBT brain. The clot was pushing on her language centers.

It took JBT eight years to fully recover

We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. We have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world.

You can step into the consciousness of your RH at any moment you like. “I am the life-force power of the universe. I am the life-force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is.”

You can also choose to step into the consciousness of your LF. Here you become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow. “ I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: Intellectual, Neuroanatomist.

These are the “we” inside of me. Which would you choose.? Which do you choose? And When?

I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner-peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be. And I thought that was an idea worth spreading.

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