What happens when a brain doctor has an extremely rare stroke?

She spent her entire career studying how the brain works. She knew the statistics:

  • Every 4 minutes, an American dies from a stroke.
  • Every year, nearly 800,00 people in the United States have a stroke.

And then one day, she woke up and couldn’t walk, talk, read or write. She had no recollection of her life, no recollection of anything.

It was a nightmare.

But for Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, this nightmare was reality.

A trained and published neuroanatomist, her specialty was in the postmortem investigation of the human brain as it relates to schizophrenia and the severe mental illnesses. Because she has a brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Dr. Taylor served for three years on the Board of Directors for National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But as irony would have it, Dr. Taylor woke up one morning to discover that she was experiencing a rare form of stroke, an arterio-venous malformation. Two and a half weeks later, she underwent major brain surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital to remove a golf-ball-size blood clot that was placing pressure on the language centers in the left hemisphere of her brain.

It took eight years for Dr. Taylor to successfully rebuild her brain—from the inside out.

In response to the swelling and trauma of the stroke, which placed pressure on her dominant left hemisphere, the functions of her right hemisphere blossomed. Among other things, she now creates and sells unique stained-glass brains (yes, brains) when commissioned to do so.


In addition, she published a Times-bestelling book about her recovery from stroke and the insights she gained into the workings of her brain: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey.

Dr. Taylor also gave a presentation at the prestigious TED Conference. The video of that presentation has been viewed by millions of people around the world. The response launched Dr. Taylor into a highly sought-after public speaker.

She was chosen by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2008 and was interviewed by Oprah and Dr. Mehmet Oz on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Dr. Taylor is working on the creation of a Serious Game for Health for neurological recovery, as she feels passionate about helping others find their way back from neurological trauma.

In addition, she is working on her next book and is excited about the upcoming feature film of her life. She travels extensively as a keynote speaker at conferences around the world, helping others learn more about their own brains and how to realize that peace really is just a thought away.

How do you focus your own brain on what’s important?

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