Jill Bolte Taylor (/ˈbɒlti/; born May 15, 1959) is an American neuroanatomist, author, and public speaker. Her training is in the postmortem investigation of the human brain as it relates to schizophrenia and the severe mental illnesses.
On December 10, 1996, Bolte Taylor was experiencing a stroke. The cause was bleeding from a vein in the left hemisphere of her brain. Three weeks later, on December 27, 1996, she underwent major brain surgery to remove a golf ball-sized clot that was placing pressure on the language centers in the left hemisphere of her brain.
Following her experience with stroke, Bolte Taylor wrote the best-selling book ‘My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey’, about her recovery from the stroke and the insights she has gained into the workings of her brain because of it.
“It was 7:00 am on December 10, 1996 I awoke…….. I sluggishly awoke to a sharp pain piercing my brain directly behind my left eye. I closed the bedroom window blind to block the incoming stream of light stinging my eyes. I decided that exercise might get my blood flowing and perhaps help dissipate the pain. Within moments, I hopped on to my "cardio-glider" (a full body exercise machine)…………… Immediately, I felt a powerful and unusual sense of dissociation roll over me. I felt so peculiar that I questioned my well-being. Even though my thoughts seemed lucid, my body felt irregular. As I watched my hands and arms rocking forward and back, forward and back, in opposing synchrony with my torso, I felt strangely detached from my normal cognitive functions. It was as if the integrity of my mind/body connection had somehow become compromised.
Feeling detached from normal reality, I seemed to be witnessing my activity as opposed to feeling like the active participant performing the action. I felt as though I was observing myself in motion, as in the playback of a memory. My fingers, as they grasped onto the handrail, looked like primitive claws………..My perception of these automatic body responses was no longer an exercise in intellectual conceptualization. Instead, I was momentarily privy to a precise and experiential understanding of how hard the fifty trillion cells in my brain and body were working in perfect unison to maintain the flexibility and integrity of my physical form. Through the eyes of an avid enthusiast of the magnificence of the human design, I witnessed with awe the autonomic functioning of my nervous system as it calculated and recalculated every joint angle……………As the language centers in my left hemisphere grew increasingly silent and I became detached from the memories of my life, I was comforted by an expanding sense of grace. In this void of higher cognition and details pertaining to my normal life, my consciousness soared into an all-knowingness, a "being at one" with the universe, if you will. In a compelling sort of way, it felt like the good road home and I liked it.
By this point I had lost touch with much of the physical three-dimensional reality that surrounded me. I sensed the composition of my being as that of a fluid rather than that of a solid. I no longer perceived myself as a whole object separate from everything. Instead, I now blended in with the space and flow around me………..”
4. My Stroke of Insight - Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor