Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stroke of Insight

The human brain is awesome. It’s ability to process and store information amazes me, and I’m always interested to learn more about how it functions. As a result, My Stroke of Insight: a brain scientist’s personal journey by Jill Bolte Taylor has been a fascinating book to read.

The author, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist, is 37 when a blood vessel explodes in the left side of her brain and she experiences a massive stroke. The book documents what she experienced during the stroke, her eight years of healing, and the lessons she gained from her experience. She offers hope that the brain can heal itself as well as really practical advice about how to help someone recover after a stroke.

In addition, Taylor explains what she learned about how the left and right sides of the brain work: “When I lost the function of my left brain’s neurological functions, I lost not only function but also a variety of personality characteristics that were apparently associated with these circuits of aptitude. Recovering cells of function that were anatomically linked to a lifetime of emotional reactivity and negative thinking has been a mind-opening experience. Although I wanted to regain my left hemisphere skills, I must say that there were personality traits that tried to rise from the ashes of my left mind that, quite frankly, were no longer acceptable to my right hemispheric sense of who I now wanted to be.”

Reading the book focussed my attention on the lists and plans and self talk that were originating in the left side of my brain while the right side of my brain was simply appreciating and experiencing life. I realized that I am a far more pleasant person, both to myself and to others, when I manage to mesh the two sides of my brain instead of permitting the left side of my brain to dominate.

All in all, My Stroke of Insight is a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.

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