A Response to Jill Bolte's "My Stroke of Insight"


As the title suggest, the book’s subject is a victim’s experience with an internal brain hemorrhage. Stroke is a highly common ailment experienced by thousands of people. The Irony, however, in this books particular situation, is the individual who suffered and testifies to her experience. Jill Bolte, a Neuroanatomist who taught at Harvard. Being adeptly versed in the complexities of the brain, Bolte was able to take note of her systematic deterioration and gain an elevated insight on what a stroke victim is likely to experience and how to treat patients- optimizing our chances of helping people recover as much as possible. Ultimately, this scientific testimony deepens my understanding of cognition and demystifies the idea of biology and intangible qualities i.e. emotions.

Initially, Bolte gives a brief synopsis of Neuroanatomy and jumps directly into the onset of blood spilling in her head. It’s these first few hours that I expand my understanding of cognition. Bolte describes here retrogressive brain ability. Slowly, her ability to focus and carry out complex commands dissipated. Apparently, her precious neurons (nerve cells) were being killed by her very own blood which is toxic to them. Bolte speaks of her clarity coming in waves. I thought immediately that her neurons were able to carry out their objectives when the pulsing blood receded and were halted again when the toxic fluid engulfed them again. 

I have grown, neuroanatomically, from Bolte’s explanation of the entwined relationship of the left and right brains. The Left Hemisphere is the section responsible for acts such as academics, speech, and muscle activity i.e. movement. While the Right Hemisphere, that of which she glorifies, is the center of intangibles i.e. states of peace.  Prior to reading this book I knew there were distinct differences between the differing hemispheres of the brain, but only vaguely. I even understand myself greater. I always thought that I was “right-brained.” But I love the sciences (the mathematics, not so much), so, naturally, I must be more “left-brain inclined.”

Bolte idealizes the state she was in when her left brain was damaged. She describes this euphoric state of perpetuating peace and happiness. Not “needing” to analyze everything around her and only live in an all-encompassing nirvana Bolte confesses to her reluctance to return (recover) to the hectic strains of our cognitive, logical lives. I must confess, abruptly I thought that remaining in a debilitated state intentionally was insane. But after a bit of contemplation, I realized the idea is not as radical as it may seem. To leave all pain, to find heaven. Why not?


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