wohnzimmer bilder otto
i grew up to study the brain because i have a brotherwho has been diagnosed with a brain disorder, schizophrenia. and as a sister and later, as a scientist, i wanted to understand,why is it that i can take my dreams, i can connect them to my reality, and i can make my dreams come true? what is it about my brother's brainand his schizophrenia that he cannot connect his dreamsto a common and shared reality,
so they instead become delusion? so i dedicated my career to researchinto the severe mental illnesses. and i moved from my home stateof indiana to boston, where i was working in the labof dr. francine benes, in the harvard department of psychiatry. and in the lab,we were asking the question, "what are the biological differences between the brains of individualswho would be diagnosed as normal control, as compared with the brains of individuals
diagnosed with schizophrenia,schizoaffective or bipolar disorder?" so we were essentiallymapping the microcircuitry of the brain: which cells are communicatingwith which cells, with which chemicals, and then in what quantitiesof those chemicals? so there was a lot of meaning in my life because i was performingthis type of research during the day, but then in the eveningsand on the weekends, i traveled as an advocate for nami,the national alliance on mental illness.
but on the morning of december 10, 1996, i woke up to discover that i hada brain disorder of my own. a blood vessel explodedin the left half of my brain. and in the course of four hours, i watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information. on the morning of the hemorrhage, i could not walk, talk, read,write or recall any of my life. i essentially becamean infant in a woman's body.
if you've ever seen a human brain, it's obvious that the two hemispheresare completely separate from one another. and i have brought for youa real human brain. (groaning, laughter) so this is a real human brain. this is the front of the brain, the back of brainwith the spinal cord hanging down, and this is how it would bepositioned inside of my head. and when you look at the brain,
it's obvious thatthe two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another. for those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functionslike a parallel processor, while our left hemisphere functionslike a serial processor. the two hemispheresdo communicate with one another through the corpus callosum, which is made up of some300 million axonal fibers. but other than that,
the two hemispheresare completely separate. because they processinformation differently, each of our hemispheresthink about different things, they care about different things,and, dare i say, they have very different personalities. excuse me. thank you. it's been a joy. assistant: it has been. (laughter) our right human hemisphereis all about this present moment.
it's all about "right here, right now." our right hemisphere,it thinks in pictures and it learns kinestheticallythrough the movement of our bodies. information, in the form of energy,streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems and then it explodesinto this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like, what this present momentsmells like and tastes like, what it feels likeand what it sounds like.
i am an energy-being connectedto the energy all around me through the consciousnessof my right hemisphere. we are energy-beingsconnected to one another through the consciousnessof our right hemispheres as one human family. and right here, right now, we are brothersand sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. and in this moment we are perfect,we are whole and we are beautiful. my left hemisphere, our left hemisphere,is a very different place.
our left hemispherethinks linearly and methodically. our left hemisphere is all about the pastand it's all about the future. our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collageof the present moment and start picking out details,and more details about those details. it then categorizes and organizesall that information, associates it with everythingin the past we've ever learned, and projects into the futureall of our possibilities. and our left hemispherethinks in language.
it's that ongoing brain chatterthat connects me and my internal world to my external world. it's that little voice that says to me, "hey, you've got to rememberto pick up bananas on your way home. i need them in the morning." it's that calculating intelligence that reminds mewhen i have to do my laundry. but perhaps most important,it's that little voice that says to me, "i am. i am."
and as soon as my left hemispheresays to me "i am," i become separate. i become a single solid individual, separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you. and this was the portion of my brainthat i lost on the morning of my stroke. on the morning of the stroke, i woke up to a poundingpain behind my left eye. and it was the kind of caustic painthat you get when you bite into ice cream.
and it just gripped me -- and then it released me. and then it just gripped me -- and it was very unusual for meto ever experience any kind of pain, so i thought, "ok, i'll just startmy normal routine." so i got up and i jumpedonto my cardio glider, which is a full-body,full-exercise machine. and i'm jamming away on this thing, and i'm realizing that my handslook like primitive claws
grasping onto the bar. and i thought, "that's very peculiar." and i looked down at my body and i thought,"whoa, i'm a weird-looking thing." and it was as though my consciousnesshad shifted away from my normal perception of reality, where i'm the person on the machinehaving the experience, to some esoteric space where i'm witnessing myselfhaving this experience.
and it was all very peculiar,and my headache was just getting worse. so i get off the machine, and i'm walkingacross my living room floor, and i realize that everythinginside of my body has slowed way down. and every step is very rigidand very deliberate. there's no fluidity to my pace, and there's this constrictionin my area of perception, so i'm just focused on internal systems. and i'm standing in my bathroom
getting ready to step into the shower, and i could actually hearthe dialogue inside of my body. i heard a little voice saying, "ok.you muscles, you've got to contract. you muscles, you relax." and then i lost my balance,and i'm propped up against the wall. and i look down at my arm and i realize that i can no longer definethe boundaries of my body. i can't define where i beginand where i end, because the atomsand the molecules of my arm
blended with the atomsand molecules of the wall. and all i could detectwas this energy -- energy. and i'm asking myself,"what is wrong with me? what is going on?" and in that moment, my left hemispherebrain chatter went totally silent. just like someone took a remote controland pushed the mute button. total silence. and at first i was shocked to find myselfinside of a silent mind. but then i was immediately captivated
by the magnificenceof the energy around me. and because i could no longeridentify the boundaries of my body, i felt enormous and expansive. i felt at one withall the energy that was, and it was beautiful there. then all of a suddenmy left hemisphere comes back online and it says to me,"hey! we've got a problem! we've got to get some help." and i'm going, "ahh! i've got a problem!"
so it's like, "ok, i've got a problem." but then i immediately driftedright back out into the consciousness -- and i affectionatelyrefer to this space as la la land. but it was beautiful there. imagine what it would be like to betotally disconnected from your brain chatter that connects youto the external world. so here i am in this space, and my job, and any stressrelated to my job -- it was gone. and i felt lighter in my body.
and imagine all of the relationshipsin the external world and any stressors relatedto any of those -- they were gone. and i felt this sense of peacefulness. and imaginewhat it would feel like to lose 37 years of emotional baggage! (laughter) oh! i felt euphoria -- euphoria. it was beautiful. and again, my left hemispherecomes online and it says,
"hey! you've got to pay attention. we've got to get help." and i'm thinking, "i've got to get help.i've got to focus." so i get out of the showerand i mechanically dress and i'm walking around my apartment, and i'm thinking,"i've got to get to work. can i drive?" and in that moment, my right arm went totallyparalyzed by my side. then i realized, "oh my gosh!i'm having a stroke!"
and the next thing my brain says to me is, wow! this is so cool! this is so cool! how many brain scientistshave the opportunity to study their own brainfrom the inside out?" and then it crosses my mind,"but i'm a very busy woman!" "i don't have time for a stroke!" so i'm like, "ok, i can't stopthe stroke from happening, so i'll do this for a week or two,and then i'll get back to my routine. ok.
so i've got to call help.i've got to call work." i couldn't remember the number at work, so i remembered, in my officei had a business card with my number. so i go into my business room, i pullout a three-inch stack of business cards. and i'm looking at the card on top and even though i could see clearlyin my mind's eye what my business card looked like, i couldn't tell if thiswas my card or not, because all i could see were pixels.
and the pixels of the wordsblended with the pixels of the background and the pixels of the symbols,and i just couldn't tell. and then i would waitfor what i call a wave of clarity. and in that moment, i would be ableto reattach to normal reality and i could tell that's not the card...that's not the card. it took me 45 minutes to get one inchdown inside of that stack of cards. in the meantime, for 45 minutes, the hemorrhage is getting biggerin my left hemisphere. i do not understand numbers,i do not understand the telephone,
but it's the only plan i have. so i take the phone padand i put it right here. i take the business card,i put it right here, and i'm matching the shapeof the squiggles on the card to the shape of the squiggleson the phone pad. but then i would drift back outinto la la land, and not remember when i came backif i'd already dialed those numbers. so i had to wieldmy paralyzed arm like a stump and cover the numbersas i went along and pushed them,
so that as i would come backto normal reality, i'd be able to tell, "yes,i've already dialed that number." eventually, the whole number gets dialedand i'm listening to the phone, and my colleague picks up the phoneand he says to me, "woo woo woo woo." (laughter) and i think to myself, "oh my gosh, he soundslike a golden retriever!" and so i say to him --clear in my mind, i say to him: "this is jill! i need help!"
and what comes out of my voice is,"woo woo woo woo woo." i'm thinking, "oh my gosh,i sound like a golden retriever." so i couldn't know -- i didn't know that i couldn't speak or understandlanguage until i tried. so he recognizes that i need helpand he gets me help. and a little while later,i am riding in an ambulance from one hospital across bostonto [massachusetts] general hospital. and i curl up into a little fetal ball. and just like a balloonwith the last bit of air,
just right out of the balloon, i just felt my energy liftand just i felt my spirit surrender. and in that moment, i knew that i wasno longer the choreographer of my life. and either the doctors rescue my bodyand give me a second chance at life, or this was perhapsmy moment of transition. when i woke later that afternoon, i was shocked to discoverthat i was still alive. when i felt my spirit surrender,i said goodbye to my life. and my mind was now suspended
between two very oppositeplanes of reality. stimulation coming inthrough my sensory systems felt like pure pain. light burned my brain like wildfire, and sounds were so loud and chaotic that i could not pick a voice outfrom the background noise, and i just wanted to escape. because i could not identify the positionof my body in space, i felt enormous and expansive,
like a genie just liberatedfrom her bottle. and my spirit soared free, like a great whale glidingthrough the sea of silent euphoria. nirvana. i found nirvana. and i remember thinking, there's no way i would ever be ableto squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny little body. but then i realized, "but i'm still alive!
i'm still alive, and i have found nirvana. and if i have found nirvanaand i'm still alive, then everyone who is alivecan find nirvana." and i pictured a world filled with beautiful, peaceful,compassionate, loving people who knew that they could cometo this space at any time. and that they could purposely choose to step to the rightof their left hemispheres -- and find this peace.
and then i realized what a tremendous giftthis experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could beto how we live our lives. and it motivated me to recover. two and a half weeks after the hemorrhage,the surgeons went in, and they removed a blood clotthe size of a golf ball that was pushing on my language centers. here i am with my mama, who is a true angel in my life.
it took me eight yearsto completely recover. so who are we? we are the life-force powerof the universe, with manual dexterityand two cognitive minds. and we have the powerto choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. right here, right now, i can step into the consciousnessof my right hemisphere, where we are. i am the life-force power of the universe.
i am the life-force power of the 50 trillion beautifulmolecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is. or, i can choose to step intothe consciousness of my left hemisphere, where i becomea single individual, a solid. separate from the flow, separate from you. i am dr. jill bolte taylor: intellectual, neuroanatomist. these are the "we" inside of me.
which would you choose? which do you choose? and when? i believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deepinner-peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will projectinto the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be. and i thought that was an ideaworth spreading.
thank you. (applause)