Brain Stem! Brain Stem!
March 12, 2008 9:44 PM   Subscribe

"How many brain scientists have the chance to study a stroke from the inside?" In 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor did (previously), and she recently gave a moving TED talk on her experience. If that merely whetted your appetite for more brainy videos, check out the complete archive of UCSD TV's Grey Matters, a series of lectures on the brain. And for dessert, The Parts of the Brain, as performed by Pinky and The Brain. [via Neurophilosophy]
posted by natabat (14 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I was just coming over here to post this - good thing you beat me to it, or I would never have heard the Pinky and the Brain song.

I watched that video this afternoon and was surprised at how intense it was. As she was describing her experience before she realized she was having a stroke I thought to myself "It sounds like she's talking about a near death experience... or meditative realization of nonduality" (not that I've experienced it or anything, just read about it). I really didn't expect her to reach the conclusion she did, though. It was both disturbing and inspiring.
posted by smartyboots at 10:45 PM on March 12, 2008

Nice! Great post. Thanks.
posted by orthogonality at 12:00 AM on March 13, 2008

I don't know what was more striking: the way that her pedantic, academic attitude slowly gave way to a powerful emotional epiphany, baring her heart and imparting a profound insight into the limits of human scientific knowledge, the fragility and lasting value of life, and the key to transcendent bliss and peace that lies hidden within our collective soul... or the part where she held up that mess o' brains. I mean it had the spinal cord hanging from it and everything!
posted by Rhaomi at 1:28 AM on March 13, 2008

she seems a bit off kilter.
posted by Addiction at 2:57 AM on March 13, 2008

Also see previously
posted by rongorongo at 3:48 AM on March 13, 2008

Fascinating, as TED talks tend to be. Questions about reality, perception, choice.

The comments are intriguing as well, ranging from people denouncing what they perceive as "mystical" aspects to kooks promoting "dianetics" and "Sientolgy" [sic], and - oddly, or not - a lot of people promoting meditation.
posted by WalterMitty at 5:57 AM on March 13, 2008

Anyone who had a blood clot the size of a golf ball pulled out of their brain is entitled to be as off kilter as they like.

More seriously I think we could all do with a higher level of self-awareness about how a bag of neuron soup can generate the entire universes that live in our minds. Emergent, self organizing neural behavior or life force of the universe, call it what you like; it's not going away.
posted by Skorgu at 6:11 AM on March 13, 2008

I wish I could have a massive stroke.
posted by anazgnos at 9:33 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I kind of wince at the use of energy at moments like this, but yeah, beautiful.

The killer part about this is that it kind of reminded me of the end of most Bill Hicks shows.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:59 PM on March 13, 2008

hmm. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of psychological/neurological insight in the talk, especially after the way it's billed (here and on the TED site). It started off well, but tailed off pretty badly. I thought it was quite emotionally powerful at times, especially before she goes really off the rails. But I can't help thinking if she'd said,
"I'd smoked this fuckin' enormous bag of weed, man, you should have seen it, it was like thiiiiiiissss big, I mean massive, fuckin' huge, like a fuckin' eat all you can salad plate, and then I was like, out of my body, y'know, like everywhere and at one with everyone, and it was beauuutifuuul and then I realised we're all, like, these energy beings and we all share a collective consciousness, and, like, if we only loved each other and felt the connection, then, y'know, we could live in Nirvana, man, I mean fuckin' Nirvana and like it could be transcendent and no bad shit would ever happen, like y'know, the man wouldn't get down on you smokin' the weed or anything then in the morning the cleaners removed a clot of ash in my bong the size of a golf ball and it took me eight years to get over that trip", then the reaction would be a little bit more LOLSTONER!!! She had a stroke. It fucks up your thought processes. Like drugs. I suspect the level of spiritual insight is roughly equivalent between the two also.

Definitely worth watching though, and major geek bonus points for the 'cool, I'm having a stroke' line. Thanks.
posted by Jakey at 5:58 PM on March 13, 2008

Having recently assisted a man suffering a massive stroke at a family gathering, of which he died a couple weeks later, I found her presentation fascinating. I really hope Ben thought "cool, I'm having a stroke" as he flickered out of verbal consciousness.
posted by Scram at 6:22 PM on March 14, 2008

I'm with Jakey that Taylor's TED talk was actually kind of disappointing. After reading the introduction to Taylor's talk here and at boingboing, and thinking about how interesting a neuroscientist's insights into the loss of her own brain function would be, I was expecting something quite profound. Instead, it sort of reminded me of someone in high school describing an acid trip. I have a feeling there is better material out there than this talk, perhaps in the Discover mag archives somewhere.

I will, however, investigate the UCSD Grey matters shows, which look interesting.
posted by jackbrown at 10:46 AM on March 15, 2008

There is quite a bit of insight here. The way she describes dialing a phone number using only her right brain is incredible.

This does not in any way resemble someone talking about having an acid trip, in my view. Yes, she's talking about energy and oneness and all that, but she's also talking very specifically about her own personal experience at having a massive hemorrhagic stroke. If you want to read a calm, sober, scientific discussion about the various brain functions that shut down when your left brain stops working, I am sure there are ample sources for that in Discover, etc. But someone's personal experience of such a dramatic event isn't going to sound that way.

This woman's story is a valuable insight for people who work with people who've had strokes, many of whom have not recovered nearly as well as she has. I'm glad I heard her story.
posted by jennyjenny at 12:04 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this. It was a powerful experience watching her tell her story. One of her points seems to be that both of the ways our body /brain processes information are valuable. Perhaps we want to work on a balance.
posted by pointilist at 10:14 PM on April 5, 2008

« Older The Biggest Threat to Our Nation   |   Can you save Polaroid? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments