My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey

by Jill Bolte Taylor

Hardcover, 2008




Viking Adult (2008), Edition: 1, 192 pages


On the morning of December 10, 1996, Taylor, a brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke. She observed her own mind completely deteriorate. Now she shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery.


½ (587 ratings; 3.7)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Lenaphoenix
Jill Bolte Tayor was a 37-year old neuroanatomist when she experienced a massive stroke that severely damaged the left hemisphere of her brain. My Stroke of Insight is her account of what happened that day, her subsequent, 8-year recovery, and how these events changed her life for the better.

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most interesting part of the book for me was Bolte Taylor’s discussion of what happened to her on that morning in 1996. With her scientific background, Bolte Taylor was in a unique position to observe the progressive breakdown of her own functioning as the blood from her burst AVM spread throughout her brain. As new areas were affected, different functions were lost, and reading about her experience is a strange kind of real-world brain anatomy lesson.

A significant portion of this book is devoted to the process of Bolte Taylor’s recovery. She realized early on that the attitude and pacing of her caregivers made a big difference in how willing and able she was to respond, and she speaks in detail about what she, personally, found was most effective in helping her heal. There is some useful information in this section for those involved in stroke victim care.

What has catapulted this book onto the bestseller list, however, is the spiritual message underlying Bolte Taylor’s experience. When the language processing areas of her brain shut down, Bolte Taylor found herself bathed in a kind of peace and bliss that was previously unknown to her. With the section of her brain that controls physical boundaries offline, she felt fluid, open, and one with everything around her.

Bolte Taylor considers these experiences to be the result of her right brain suddenly being given the chance to run the show while her left brain was incapacitated. She speaks quite a bit about how she made a conscious decision during her recovery to retain access to these states and to keep these pathways open as she brought her left brain back online. In the latter section of the book, she offers a list of techniques she feels anyone can use to help open up pathways to the expanded capacities of their own right brains.

I learned a number of interesting things while reading this book, and there is no question that Bolte Taylor’s story is a very inspiring one. Ultimately, however, I was disappointed by a number of things about this book. To start, it would have benefited from better editing. Some sections are highly repetitive, I was confused about certain aspects of her level of functioning and recovery, and the flow of the narrative was very uneven. Hers is a great story, and good editing would have made that even more obvious.

My main criticism of this book, however there is a very sloppy blending of hard, scientific information about the brain with Bolte Taylor’s anecdotal experience and personal theories about what happened to her. It was not always obvious which was which, and I suspect many readers will be confused and assume her personal theories are more scientifically grounded than they actually are.

Though Bolte Taylor does not specifically mention religion in the book, her numerous allusions to prayer, visualization, energy, and oneness make it clear that she subscribes to a certain kind of belief system that her experiences are filtered through. While this is to be expected, her inability to see the contradictions in her beliefs was frustrating to me. For example, she speaks about how, after the stroke, she floated in a place of bliss, at one with everything. Yet just a few paragraphs earlier, she refers to a harried, inexperienced medical student as an “energy vampire.” She does not address why her feelings of being at one with and connected to everything did not extend to this person. In addition, she is critical of how the judgmental function of the left brain keeps us shut down from the more expanded perspective of the right brain, yet doesn’t seem to notice her own preference for right-brain dominated experiences seems, well, kind of judgmental.

I’ve had personal experiences of peace and bliss that are similar to what Bolte Taylor describes, so I can certainly understand her preference for them. I also think she gives some good advice to help people find those states themselves without having to have a stroke to get there. But I think this book would have been much more valuable had Bolte Taylor used her scientifically trained left-brain to more clearly separate her anecdotal experience and beliefs what science actually tells us about our fascinating brains.
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LibraryThing member MarthaHuntley
I make a point of not reading Librarything reviews of a book until I have finished it, because I don't want to be overly infuenced by others' opinions. I'm glad I did that in the case of this book, which I enjoyed immensely and from which I learned a great deal. When I read the negative reviews of
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it, I was rather surprised. Several people mentioned her oversimplifying -- interesting, since the woman has a major stroke and has much of her own brain incapactiated! I guess someone else would have had to write the more complicated and scholarly book these people seem to have wanted. I thought it an excellent first person account of experiencing a debilitating stroke, an inspiring story of recovery, a generous sharing of learnings, and in general, a real contribution to science, to families with stroke victims, to people interested in the relationship between mind and spirit, brain and mind, physiology and personality. Thanks, Jill Taylor!
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LibraryThing member lorin77
I was very excited to read My Stroke of Insight. In the end, though, I was really disappointed by the book. Taylor, I felt, only lightly skimmed over most topics. For example, while Taylor has two brief chapters describing the science of the brain, it is done in the simplest way possible, perhaps
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even to the point of having dumbed the science down. Once the scientific explanation was out of the way, I felt like Taylor ignored further opportunities in the course of telling her story to return to the science and explain how the anatomy covered earlier tied into the events happening. I am all for making the science understandable to the lay-person but not at the expense, I thought, of fuller explanations.

The latter portion of the book is devoted to the insights Taylor had about herself and her brain from having a stroke. In a nutshell, the big insight is this: inner peace is available to anyone because it’s already in your brain and if you would just get out of your own way by meditating, you would be happier. While this is a lovely insight, I was annoyed by the amount of time Taylor spent on this topic, considering the libraries devoted this subject, when in the end, I don’t really think she added anything new to the discussion. Once again, I feel like she just glossed over how to, as she calls it, step to the right of our left brains. The pages devoted to how to meditate are, in my opinion, perfunctory and yet also a waste of space when there are so many other resources out there about meditation.

Disappointment aside, I do think there is one group of people for whom this book will be very helpful: family and friends of stroke victims who have lost the ability to speak for themselves. While Taylor makes it clear that every stroke is different, I think this book could be very helpful for anyone who is at loss of how to interact with a person in recovery from a stroke.
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LibraryThing member IonaS
This is a book about a neuroanatomist who suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. Apart from the first three chapters, which explain to us in detail the structure of the brain, with its two halves, detail necessary for us to understand what happened to the author, the first part of the book reads like a
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thriller and is unputdownable.

She, Jill, wakes up early one morning to a sharp pain behind her left eye. This is the beginning of a blow-by-blow account of her haemorrhage. This takes place in the left, logical, side of her brain. The account is fascinating, in that we experience Jill's gradual awareness of the fact that something absolutely serious is happening, something she realizes she will have to do something about, get help with, while at the same time she is more and more being drawn into the euphoria and now-consciousness of the right side of the brain. The left side was gradually filling up with blood and her ability to move, talk, and think logically, was disappearing. Part of her knew that she had to act quickly, but she was constantly distracted by the wondrous feeling of being one with the universe (not to mention by the splitting headache). It was a struggle to focus enough to find out what to do to get help, and how to do it. Who to call, what number to call, and how to call a number.

Eventually of course, as we can figure out, she does manage to alert the world to her predicament. After a brain operation and aided by her loving mother and much sleep, she gradually returns to health, though it takes her eight years fully to regain her faculties. Of course she needs to learn how to walk, talk, read and understand numbers, the latter proving to be the most difficult.

Now, I believe that everything happens for a reason. And Jill herself later realized how fortunate she was to have the whole experience, that enabled her to release a number of negative characteristics and create a new Jill with a new understanding of the fact that we are all connected to each other and to the universe: all we have to do to contact "Nirvana" is to quieten the left half of the brain.

Owing to this personal experience of the very differing characteristics of the two sides of the brain, Jill obtains a new understanding of the field of her work, neuroanatomy.

Perhaps the most important part of the book are the final chapters, where the author explains her new-found insights, how she can control her thoughts (not continue to dwell on negative ones) and return to the now. She can thereby choose to be loving and peaceful (as exemplified by her right brain) no matter the circumstances.

She quotes a Dr. Jerry Jesseph as saying "Peace should be where we begin and not where we strive to get to." (I read this book in translation, so the wording of the quote may not be exactly correct.) This is practically the same thing as I have recently read in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh. He quotes A. J. Muste as saying "There is no path to peace, peace is the path." (Same comment as previously as regards wording.)

Jill realizes that the way we think, what we say to ourselves, is decisive for our mental health. (Abraham, as revealed in the books of Esther and Jerry Hicks, goes much further and teaches us that the way we think is also decisive for our physical health, and in general for everything that happens to us in life.)

Jill's stroke (of insight) is thus veritably life-changing and this book, in which she communicates her insights to us, offers us all a chance to change our lives correspondingly without we too having to suffer a stroke first.

Deep inner peace is just a thought/feeling away. And peace is experienced in the now (again exactly as formulated by Thich Nhat Hanh).

The book contains two useful appendices designed to help others in the same situation as she was. The first appendix comprises questions by which to assess the state of your brain (to help to alert you to the possible necessity of seeking immediate help). The second appendix contains forty pieces of advice to caregivers attending to those who have suffered a stroke or the like, advice about how most respectfully to treat the patient.

I strongly recommend that you all read this book. Not only will it be extremely useful to all those with relations who suffer something similar, but will also in general help every-one to lead their lives more successfully.
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
“Stroke is the number one disabler in our society and four times more strokes occur in the left hemisphere, impairing language.”

This neuroscientist had a massive stroke in her left hemisphere, wiping out much of her ability to speak and understand language and math, or think in our normal
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linear fashion. Reading this profound and insightful book, it’s apparent she managed to make an impressive recovery. Because of her brain scientist background, she is able to colorfully take us through the experience of that stroke (including post-stroke surgery to remove a large blood clot) and her patient, difficult recovery that took eight years. It’s like having a trail guide with knowledge of the local terrain and flora and fauna so extensive that she can comfortably and entertainingly give you highlights you can understand.

Her stroke shutting down her left hemisphere had a huge silver lining. Our left hemisphere is the one that chatters all the time, making observations and judgments and telling us stories - not all of them true. It’s the one that in meditation we try to calm, quiet and eventually silence. In her case, it left her right hemisphere for the first time (in adulthood) unfettered and free.

“My consciousness no longer retained the discriminatory functions of my dominant analytical left brain. Without those inhibiting thoughts, I had stepped beyond my perception of myself as an individual. Wihout my left brain . . . My consciousness ventured unfettered into the peaceful bliss of my divine right mind.”

The right brain gives us gestalt, “big picture” thinking, and normally the two halves work together to create and understand our experience. The stroke left her with an oceanic feeling of tranquil connection with everything in the universe - a tempting place to stay and live. She felt “fluid” rather than solid and separate in the normal way.

“AlthoughI rejoiced in my perception of connection to all that is, I shuddered at the awareness that I was no longer a normal human being. How on earth would I exist as a member of the human race with this heightened perception that we are each a part of it all, and that the life force energy within each of us contains the power of the universe? How could I fit into our society when I walk the earth with no fear? I was, by anyone’s standard, no longer normal. In my own unique way, I had become severely mentally ill.”

This desire to connect with others in a normal, human way motivated her to take on the arduous, humbling work of recovery. At the beginning, she could barely speak, barely (and not often) understand others, and could engage in linear thinking only briefly, after which she’d need a lot of sleep. Speaking loudly to her didn’t help - she wasn’t deaf! She humorously identifies some of her pet peeves with doctors, nurses and visitors. She credits her mother with incredible, patient care (the author had actually been somewhat neglected as a young child with older siblings). Her mother realized she needed slow, step by step learning, akin to a toddler. The ultimate result was this book (she’s also a frequent speaker, urging people to donate their post-death brains to Harvard for study).

How she learns to balance the two sides of her brain, and change the negative left side loops that had impeded her enjoyment of life is a fascinating story.

“My stroke of insight would be: Peace is only a thought away, and all we have to do to access it is to silence the voice of our dominating left mind.”

Her ordeal left her with the enviable ability to experience “Nirvana” (which she describes as filled with “compassion and joy”) whenever she likes, and adeptly bring balance and joy to her experience of life. The abrupt smashing of her life and her arduous journey back to “normal” make for an exhilarating journey for the reader, full of life lessons to think about. All this in a slim, 180+ page volume. We just started February, but this may well end up my favorite book of the year.

P.S. My stroke happened in my right hemisphere, so none of this cool stuff for me, just re-educating the left side of my body in particular to move in a normal way.
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LibraryThing member DubiousDisciple
Why is a book about a brain scientist's experience of having a stroke gracing the pages of my religion blog?

Because it was a religious experience. Jill's massive stroke caused the left half of her brain to shut down. The side responsible for linear, logical thinking. So what remains?

It’s not so
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much that the two hemispheres process different information; a person can survive with only half a brain. The difference is in the way the two sides think. To the right side, no time exists but the present moment, and each moment is vitally alive, the moment of now being timeless and abundant. Our right mind is the big-picture side, spontaneous and carefree, imaginative and artistic, uninhibited and empathic. We walk in the shoes of another and feel their feelings from the right side of our brain.

By contrast, the left side of our brain is detail-oriented. It is organized and deductive, logical and analytical, able to divide past from present from future. Our left brain conquers the world we live in. Our left brain is also the part of us most responsible for identifying the I. It carefully draws the boundaries between us and the rest of the world, protects us from hurt, preserves our precious identity. It revels in our individuality and strives for our independence.

So, what happens when you find all sense of I gone, and you're left swimming in a universal and eternal sea of brotherhood, suddenly at one with the universe? And, more important: Can we tap the right side of our brains?

Drive fast to your bookstore and pick up this book. Go now.
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LibraryThing member bragan
Jill Botle Taylor is a scientist who studies the anatomy of the brain. In 1996, at the age of 37, she suffered a massive stroke that took much of her left hemisphere offline and required eight years to completely recover from. During that time she got a remarkable firsthand informed-observer's view
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of her own brain as it partially shut down and then began slowly regaining function.

Her descriptions of the stroke itself and the days following it are deeply interesting, and her attempts to inform readers about the symptoms of stroke and to offer advice for caregivers of stroke victims are laudable. But the insights she's taken from the experience are heavily tinged with a mushy, New Age-y quality that I have major issues with, and this shows up even in the chapters where she's supposedly just simply explaining the basic brain science, which I find annoying. (No doubt the author would say that I'm being far too left-brained. But, hell, I like my left brain. It's good at analyzing things to see if they make actual logical sense.)

While reading this, I couldn't help wishing that a more skeptically minded brain scientist might have the same kind of stroke and write their impressions of it, because comparing the same general experiences filtered through two very different ways of interpreting things would be absolutely fascinating. And then, of course, I mentally smacked myself, because that's a horrible thing to wish for. Still...
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LibraryThing member plappen
Having a stroke must be hard enough for anyone. It must be that much harder to be a Harvard-trained brain scientist having a stroke, knowing what is happening to your brain as it happens.

In December 1996, the author woke one morning knowing that something was very wrong with her. Within four hours,
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the left hemisphere of her brain had deteriorated to the point where she could no longer read, write, talk or understand what those squiggles were on her telephone keypad. While her logical left brain was shutting down (she was able to get help in time), her intuitive right brain gave her a feeling of total peace and being at one with the universe (not necessarily a bad thing). Taylor is able to give an almost blow-by-blow description as her brain shut down. For instance, when she loses the ability to speak, that means that a spot called Broca’s Area is affected.

Taylor’s type of stroke was called an arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal arterial configuration. Even though it’s a rare type of stroke, it’s the most common type of stroke for younger sufferers (Taylor was 37 years old when she suffered her stroke). After several days in the hospital, she was sent home with her mother, who had come to help nurse her back to health. The plan was to get her as well, and as strong, as possible, because the operation to fix her arterial malformation, a stereotactic craniotomy, was coming. She survived, and over the next several years, was able to put her brain back together, leaving out the unpleasant and negative parts.

During her recovery, Taylor learned the things that caregivers should, and should not, do to help stroke patients. Make eye contact with me. Honor the healing power of sleep. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. Please don’t raise your voice. Keep visits brief. Ask me multiple-choice questions, not Yes/No questions. Break all actions down into smaller steps. Don’t finish my sentences or fill in words I can’t find.

This is a really interesting book. On one level, it looks inside the brain to show just what happens during a stroke; good for stroke victims or caregivers. On another level, it shows that the two lobes of the brain have very different personalities. It’s very much worth reading.
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LibraryThing member hereandthere
Jill Bolte Taylor's tribute to the right brain is a fascinating auto-exploration of her experience of a left side hemorrhagic stroke, and her eight year long recovery process. The stroke performed a temporary lesion of the language and related functions of her left brain, leaving her awash in
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feelings of mystical unity and connection to the universe. In short, it sounds like she was tripping. It put her in touch with her right brain, enabled her to find her soul, and enabled her to write a book that integrates neuroanotomy and medicine with spiritual and emotional wisdom. Looking back she is genuinely grateful for the experience of stroke. Not a bad day's work for a bleeding arteriovenous malformation (AVM) at age 37.

That said, I've got some problems with this book. The first involves the epistemological status of the stroke narrative itself, particularly that of the first few hours. It is beautifully written, but it is of course written, and written long after the fact. Because it is writing about the very experience of losing language itself, it is at least a problematic text. Clearly there must be a significant measure of reconstruction. Memories that by her own account cannot have been verbal or left brain based must have been translated and re-presented as words. As long as we keep this literary/physiological fudge in mind, the account itself is interesting, even fascinating. Taylor enables us to experience in words the experience of someone who has awakened to the fact that she has lost her words. We have the impression that she could picture, as a neuroanatomist, what was actually happening to her brain, or does she mean only to imply that she has reconstructed this afterwards? It's not clear. And so we have to keep in mind that this is a creative fiction in some significant measure and not merely mimetic or directly representational. She is painting pictures of awarenesses that it is difficult to imagine that she could have had during the experience because they are such left brain thoughts. Neither her own impressive credentials as a scientist at the time, or her subsequent research, all of which create the literary experience that "you are there" should disguise the fact that in a certain left brain sense "she was not there" and had to apply words to her experiences much later. In some ways, this makes her literary achievement all the greater, but this perhaps should be differentiated from a scientific text. Any introspective narrative faces this problem, but an introspective narrative about the loss of language is even more problematic.

The deeper problem that I have, however, with this text, and it may not be your problem but it is certainly mine, is that I don't believe in the right brain, as a matter of religion. If I am to choose a side in the brain wars, I must believe in the left brain. My God is not the god of oceanic feelings of oneness, or of wordless emotional connection, or even of feelings at all. My God is the god of symbols, time and linearity. I believe in words and symbols and I believe through words and symbols. I consider the human capacity for logic and reason to be the purest distillation of divinity (or if you prefer the greatest achievement of evolution... all the same to me.)

My heart and my soul are in my left brain, not my right brain. I like my right brain well enough, but I'm just not that into it. And when I read the later chapters of this book, with all of Dr. Taylor's odes to emotional awareness and right brain connectivity, it just makes me feel all cynical and angry. That's not going to feed my children! That's not going to feed the world. It's all very well for you, Dr. Taylor, to preach about emotional wholeness (who could be against that? not me!) but I'm running out of money and I've got a family to feed. I really don't have time to hang out and get more in touch with myself. I need to reason my way out of this box of life that I'm trapped in, and no one is paying me to observe my circuitry and heal my soul. I don't think I've expressed the full extent of my cynicism yet, but I'm trying.

Sure I've had a few artificially induced right brain experiences, and sure I've done enough therapy to believe that our right brains are real and have a certain importance. But that's not where God is. No way. God is doing multiplication tables, and calculating functions. God is reasoning through logical possibilities. God is law and justice. God is language. God is in the left brain. God is what a microprocessor does. And while I readily grant that God needs a friendly working relationship with the Shekina, the indwelling presence, if you will, or the right brain if you must, I just don't think I could live in that kind of holiness for very long. I have too much I want to get done before I die, and time is short.

I'm happy that Dr. Taylor is happy. I suspect it has way more to do with the fact that she has a nice position with the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute and the Indiana University School of Medicine and has written a book that has garnered lots of attention, than it has to do with the strokes of insight she gained when half her brain winked out. It's the writing and sense she made of that event, not the time of oceanic oneness itself, that she herself acknowledges was necessary to feel whole again. She still values the time when her left brain disappeared for awhile. I've had experiences like that of a lesser degree, but I'm not so convinced that they amount to a hill of beans. We'd both probably agree that you wouldn't want to live only on the right side of the brain.
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LibraryThing member elektherelic
I feel bad rating this book so low. The premise was very interesting, however I felt like it was repetitive and a little boring; I really had to force myself to finish it. Also, the end sort of freaked me out when she started talking about communicating with her cells. Though the beginning and the
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end were rough, the middle section was really well done and easy to read. Still, I probably wouldn't recommend. Props to her for wanting to spread the message and advocate for stroke victims.
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LibraryThing member niaomiya
This book blew me away. For the first time, a stroke victim was able to describe in detail what it was like to rapidly lose function in the left brain hemisphere AS THE STROKE WAS HAPPENING, and then she was able to describe what it was like during the short- and long-term recovery process. And
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when the stroke victim is a brain scientist, the insight revealed is truly staggering. That Dr. Taylor was able to retain her memories of the stroke - before, during, and after - and regain the use of her left brain hemisphere to be able to WRITE about it in great detail years later, well, this was nothing short of a miracle.

My father suffered a hemorrhagic stroke - similar to, but not the same as, Dr. Taylor's - three years ago. I picked up this book, hoping it would give me some insight into what might have been going through his head at the time. I read the book, hoping it would give me reassurance that my mother - his full-time caregiver - was doing the right thing. I devoured the book, looking for pointers on how best to help him continue his healing process. This book did all of this and more: it gave me hope. I cannot wait to share with my father what I learned from this book and to hear from him whether he experienced some of the same thoughts and sensations that Dr. Taylor did. I cannot wait to share with my mother that she has been doing the right thing, to reassure her.

Dr. Taylor wrote this book in hopes that it would help caregivers and the medical community to better understand how to help stroke victims. I am forever grateful.
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LibraryThing member CarolynSchroeder
I picked up and read this book solely on the strong recommendation of a friend. I'm glad I did as it has changed the way I look at life, my reactions, thoughts, feelings and how much control we have over these things. While this is predominantly a story of a brilliant (in the ways of the brain -
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she is a neuroanatomist PhD) woman's story of her journey through a brain injury/stroke at the age of 37, the chemistry/science of same and her recovery ... it is also a wonderful "self help" book in the latter third. Now, I'm not a big "self help" book person, but coming after such a dramatic and frightening injury (and 8 years of recovery - during which she stayed positive and curious about what she was going through, mostly so she could share it with readers), I would say it was absolutely worth my while to listen to what this author had to say. Highly recommended on so many levels, but would mostly be a wonderful suggestion to anyone interested in brain science, research, mental illness (and how the brain affects/controls that), stroke/brain injury victims and their families (great tools on how to care for and relate to a person who is having/had a stroke) and also, people who cannot seem to find happiness. This one might be your key to the path that opens the door to happiness. I am also unsure if there has ever been an account so vivid of what a person goes through (medically, physically and emotionally) when having a stroke. There simply is no one more uniquely qualified to take a reader on this journey than Ms. Taylor. This is a fascinating and life-altering read.
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LibraryThing member maggie1944
I picked this book to read because I have a friend who has suffered a number of seizures and presents with behaviors which mimic consequences of stoke or other brain injury. It was a quick read and reviewed some information about brain physiology, right and left brain characteristics, stroke
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symptoms and consequences, and recovery from brain injury. The book is written for an average person and was mainly review of information I previously have encountered as a teacher and as a reader of psychology and self-help literature; however, Dr. Bolte Taylor does have some unique and interesting information which was new to me and provided me with practical insights which I expect to be helpful in dealing with my friend's recovery.

I agree that she writes an optimistic book with some important insights into living life to its fullest which can be helpful for any one who reads her book. I recommend it to people who have the challenge of dealing with stroke victims, or who have the challenge of recovering from any brain injury, or any one who has interest in brain function. It is written for a lay person but I can imagine medical care givers also gaining a great deal from getting a patient's point of view.

Dr. Bolte Taylor's descriptions of her actual stroke and the first weeks of recovery provide a unique and gifted peek into experiences which few of us can recount. I feel strongly that any one providing care to a person with a brain injury would benefit from reading this book.

My only negative comment is that it is probably "dumbed down" for lay people a bit too much. More detail and more medical information whould be interesting also.
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
This story recounts neuroanatomist Jill Taylor's debilitating stroke and subsequent recovery. Because of her training, Taylor understood what was happening to her and her brain. During her recovery she began to celebrate the resiliency of her brain and her body as she began re-training herself.
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This is a very moving and uplifting story and it really makes you appreciate everything you body must handle everyday.
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LibraryThing member robboulter
Approached this book from a psychology perspective but what really hooked me was the description of the minds functions being mapped to the brain. Plus this was not an 'objective' study. She actually experienced this loss of function!
LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
Very interesting stuff about right brains and left brains - not to mention a totally different take on having and recovering from a stroke. I expected a book about what it took to recover. Instead, this was a book about what Dr. Taylor learned about her brain as a result of losing the left brain
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functioning. I think I would have been terrified, but in her book she seems more interested than anything, and that made the journey for me as a reader more about the knowledge than about the emotion. Now I want to learn more about the brain!
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LibraryThing member dmcolon
I first ran across Jill Bolte Taylor's book "My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey" on the TED website. Her account of her stroke at age 37 is riveting and the fact that she's chronicled this with the training of a brain scientist only makes her story that much more compelling.
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The book is an interesting combination of her stroke, her recovery, some brief introductory brain science, as well as some self-help stuff.

The account of her stroke is riveting. She experienced some rather psychadelic episodes that make me wonder how others experience these sort of events. What does the brain do during death? What do people experience in a coma? There seems to be an interesting combination of euphoria, disorientation, wonderment, and fear, all of which are competing simultaneously.

I also found her discussion of the hemispheric differences between the left and right side of the brain riveting. The whole "left brain/right brain" distinction is insightful. Her account of her recovery from her stroke provides lots of practical information to stroke victims and their caregivers and friends. Her recovery is truly inspirational and inspired many. Dick Clark named her one of the most influential people in Time Magazine and with good reason.

The fact that a scientist had the logical/rational part of her brain essentially shut down due to a stroke, makes for interesting reading. During this time she got more in touch with her emotional/intuitional side and it seems as if she learned greater patience and forbearance. At times, her language is a bit too New Age for me, but given what she's been through and the lessons she's learned, I may still be using too much of my left brain in thinking about all this.
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LibraryThing member marient
On this morning of Dec 10, 1996, Jill 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..She shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery.
LibraryThing member raindiva1
The single worst book regarding neuroscience I've read. She oversimplifies EVERYTHING in a grotesque manner. Making statements about the 'right brain' and the 'left brain' that we simply have no real evidence for. The brain is not nearly as simple as 'creativity on the right side'. If it were then
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we wouldn't have an entire field of neural networking. The brain consists of many EXTREMELY complex networks that use many parts of the brain at one time. The complexities are unimaginable. I hate it when people oversimplify science and I don't care what their reasons are; whether you do it because you are too stupid to know better or you do it to make information easier for the public, it is a BAD idea because it is misinformation. and as a neuroanatomist she should know better.
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LibraryThing member Meggo
I really, really wanted to enjoy this book. After all, anyone who comes to the realization that she's having a stroke and her first reaction is "Cool! Now I can let people know what happens!" clearly has the right frame of mind. But the book gets a little preachy and "at one with the universe"-y
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after Dr. Taylor describes the aftereffects of her stroke and recovery process, which detracted somewhat from the book's excellent beginning. Still, it's a fascinating read if only for the first half - Dr. Taylor's stroke and healing.
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LibraryThing member Berly
Very insightful look at the progressive symptoms of a stroke and at the separate functions of the right and left hemispheres. Uplifting story, but gets repetitive. Wish there was more information on recovery.
LibraryThing member OvertheMoonBooks
Oh, I wanted so badly to love this book. I watched Taylor's talk on TED and was captivated and inspired. This woman, with so much knowledge about the brain, got to watch, then tell about, the speedy disintegration of functioning in her own brain. Speaking for just over 18 minutes, Taylor summarizes
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her credentials as a neuro-anatomist, explains the functions of the two hemispheres of the brain, describes the events surrounding her stroke, and inspires viewers to choose to inhabit the right hemisphere of our brains more fully, which just might lead to world peace. Her talk is dramatic, poetic, intelligent, funny, and, ultimately, inspiring.I was so looking forward to reading the book for more of this goodness! Instead, though the book was interesting, it wasn't nearly as captivating as her talk. The writing was flat, and seemed to be aimed at a very unsophisticated reader. The magic, the nirvana available to us all described so engagingly in the talk was diluted by Taylor's insistent, almost childlike repetition. There are many useful bits in this book. It's a good primer on brain structure and function, complete with illustrations. There are some good tips about caring for someone with a brain injury, though the tips are presented as instructions, rather than good ideas that worked for her. It offers compelling reasons for us to donate our brains to the Brain Trust. Compassion figures prominently.So, not a bad book, but not as great as it could have been. Watch the TED talk.
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LibraryThing member librarygeek33
A description of having a stroke by someone who has had the experience is interesting. That person being a "brain scientist" makes it intriguing and educational. The beginning of the book presents just enough biology to add to the drama. The later part of the book, about the recovery period was
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less engaging, but the brevity of the book made it just about right.
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LibraryThing member bobbieharv
I'm sure this book could be helpful to people dealing with stroke or brain-damaged victims. As a work of literature, however, it's quite irritating. I felt both condescended to (by the ridiculous little brain drawings and by the level of the "scientific" language) and superior to the author, who
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seemed to write at a fourth grade level. I also didn't believe much of what she wrote about left versus right brain functioning, and find it hard to believe she's still a genuine "brain scientist," whatever that is. She's gotten a lot of press traveling around lecturing about her spiritual insights, but the ones in the book were banal, to say the least.
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LibraryThing member jeanie1
Intersting book of a scientists recovery from a stroke. Would be helpful for caregivers of stroke victims.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

9.28 inches


0670020745 / 9780670020744
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