By LouAnn Lofton
Imagine you’re a Harvard-trained neuroscientist, having spent years researching how our brains work and studying what can go awry with them. You’ve built a very fulfilling and fruitful career — and life — along the way. Now, you wake up one morning at the age of 37, and over the course of four critical hours, realize that you are suffering from a stroke. Your repository of insights into the brain allows you to analyze what’s going on, even as your left brain loses cognitive function.
Author and scientist Jill Bolte Taylor takes us on a first-hand account of just this very scenario. In December 1996, she suffered an anteriovenous malformation (AVM), a rare form of stroke that, in her case, caused a massive hemorrhage on the left side of her brain.
In fascinating detail, Taylor recounts what it felt like to gradually lose the analytical powers of her left brain, while simultaneously recognizing that the right side of her brain was becoming dominant. In the book, she offers a quick and painless (really!) look at the two hemispheres of our brains and how they differ. The left is more logical, more concerned with order and time, while the right is more creative, more “in the moment,” and makes us feel connected to the world around us. As she felt her left brain go, Taylor was amazed at how it felt to live primarily in her right brain. She describes it as “nirvana,” and writes that she felt completely at peace with what was happening to her.
Taylor spent eight grueling years recovering from her stroke, having to relearn everything from knowing that you need to put on your socks before your shoes (a left brain injury means you don’t realize the order for things like that) to learning how to read all over again. She was relentless in her pursuit, determined to regain all of the cognitive function she’d lost, and was surrounded with loving friends and family who helped her.
In addition to being an inspirational read, My Stroke of Insight would also help anyone with a family member or friend recovering from a stroke. Taylor lays out how she herself recovered, what helped her, and, perhaps more importantly, what didn’t. She provides concrete suggestions for effective rehabilitation, including specifics about how stroke victims are treated.
Educational, entertaining, and engaging, anyone interested in the brain (or just an amazing story) would enjoy this book.