Jill Bolte Taylor to Deliver Opening Address Jill Bolte Taylor, whose inspirational story of recovery from stroke is recounted in the best-selling book My Stroke of Insight, will deliver the keynote address at the opening Convention session on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 8:30 a.m. Taylor’s presentation, “The Wonder of What We Are,” will touch on the theme ... ASHA Convention Coverage
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ASHA Convention Coverage  |   September 01, 2011
Jill Bolte Taylor to Deliver Opening Address
Author Notes
  • Matthew Cutter, writer/editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at mcutter@asha.org.
    Matthew Cutter, writer/editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at mcutter@asha.org.×
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Special Populations / ASHA Convention Coverage
ASHA Convention Coverage   |   September 01, 2011
Jill Bolte Taylor to Deliver Opening Address
The ASHA Leader, September 2011, Vol. 16, 26. doi:10.1044/leader.ACC3.16092011.26
The ASHA Leader, September 2011, Vol. 16, 26. doi:10.1044/leader.ACC3.16092011.26
Jill Bolte Taylor, whose inspirational story of recovery from stroke is recounted in the best-selling book My Stroke of Insight, will deliver the keynote address at the opening Convention session on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 8:30 a.m. Taylor’s presentation, “The Wonder of What We Are,” will touch on the theme of this year’s Convention—innovation to action—and inspire speech-language pathologists and audiologists to help clients reach their communication goals.
Taylor is a Harvard-educated and published neuroanatomist who chose the field to be able to help people like her brother, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. On Dec. 10, 1996, Taylor came face-to-face with her chosen field when she experienced a severe left hemisphere brain hemorrhage. “In the course of four hours,” Taylor said, “I watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information.” The rare form of stroke, known as an arterio-venous malformation (AVM), left her unable to walk, talk, read, or write, and wiped clean all memories of her life before the stroke. “I essentially became an infant in a woman’s body.”
In a presentation recorded for TED (a free website of “riveting talks by remarkable people”), Taylor recounts her story in detail, describing her loss of the ability to consider the past, future, and her place within it—in short, the ability to say, “I am…” Instead, she was left with only the right-brain ability to exist in the present moment, but unable to distinguish herself from the energy she perceived flowing from her surroundings. “In that moment, my brain chatter—my left-hemisphere brain chatter—went totally silent, just like someone took a remote control and pushed the mute button. Total silence.” In the weeks after the stroke, as she struggled to come to terms with what she experienced, Taylor was inspired to recover.
The presentation, recorded Feb. 27, 2008, is the most-viewed ever on the TED site.
Over the next eight years, with her mother’s help and her own resolve, Taylor rebuilt her memory and neural functions, relying on her brain’s right hemisphere to compensate for and help repair the damaged left half. Taylor completely recovered her mental and physical capacities—and more—by seeking a new balance between left- and right-brain capabilities. Now Taylor seeks to help people maximize their quality of life by “tending the garden of our minds” to balance the particular aptitudes of the right brain with those of the left.
She recounted her story in her book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, which spent 17 weeks on The New York Times Hardcover Non-Fiction Bestseller list. Since then, she has given numerous presentations and speeches, including an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Remarkably, Taylor doesn’t consider her experience with stroke in a negative light but rather feels fortunate to have had the experience. She recalls her left brain telling her during the stroke, “This is so cool—how many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brains from the inside out?” Though her surgery and subsequent recovery were challenging, Taylor views her experience as worthwhile. She is now a passionate advocate not only for the ability of the brain to recover, but also for individuals’ ability to choose, moment by moment, who and how they want to be in the world.
“I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner-peace circuitry of our right hemisphere,” Taylor said, “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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September 2011
Volume 16, Issue 9