Are you dominated by the left side of your brain or the right? Is one side better than the other? How can we influence which side of the brain dominates our life? Is this a conscious choice?
These are some of the questions I have after listening to another emotionally charged TED talk, Jill Bolte Taylor: Stroke of Insight. Taylor is a Harvard trained and published neuroanatomist. She studies the structure and function of the nervous system, whose purpose is to send and receive messages from the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and the spinal cord, to the rest of the body. Basically, Taylor is a brain scientist.
What makes her talk so gripping is the story of the massive hemorrhage she suffered on the left side of her brain. The amount of detail and clarity of her ordeal, over a four hour period, is amazing. She was able to distinguish the right brain thoughts versus the left brain thoughts.
Research shows that the right hemisphere of the brain controls creative and expressive tasks. This lets us express emotions, recognize faces, express creativity and enjoy music. It uses our sensory organs to read our situations. The left hemisphere handles logical tasks, analytical thinking and language. It picks details from our past and organizes them for future reference.
During her stroke, Taylor can sense when she is driven by her right hemisphere. This dreamy feeling makes her feel free and light with no cares in the world. She feels outside of her body, as a spiritual observer. For short intermittent moments, her left hemisphere takes over to speak the voice of reason. This is what pushes her to think logically about her current situation, the implications her hemorrhage will have on her future and how to reach out for help. Taylor experiences a sense of euphoria that, ultimately, leads to a mental state of nirvana, where she surrenders her body to what is meant to be. As a brain scientist, somewhere in the four hours of vacillating between left and right side thinking, Taylor finds herself thinking how “cool” it is to be able to experience this brain disorder firsthand from the inside out.
Eight years after the hemorrhage and the removal of a golf ball size blood clot, Jill Bolte Taylor is fully recovered. She is convinced that by choosing to step to the right of our left hemisphere we can find peace. Take a minute to listen to her emotionally charged talk and let me know your thoughts.