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European Tribune - Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight

She makes an intriguing (for me) statement at the end:

So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are -- I am -- the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a 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.
My emphases--because as I read it she means that following her experiences she can now switch hemispheres at will.

Maybe I'm reading her wrong.

That's what I would like to know, too. Is she being metaphorical or literal, here?

Of course, if she spent 8 years of her life rebuilding her left hemisphere, she might have just acquired that ability.

What I find intriguing about all this is the possibility (none of this is implied by JBT: it's my own guesses) that

  1. this is what meditation is about: learning to quieten the "inner chatter" in your brain as a way to temporarily wind down the left hemisphere;
  2. this is what psychotropic substances such as LSD are all about

Note that for a few hours from the start of her stroke she was still conscious, aware of herself and of her surroundings, but in an altered state of consciousness. In a way, whatever she experienced in that state was real - same sensory input, different mental construction. This is not the same as being asleep or unconscious where presumably sensory inputs are cut off. As an analogy, if you close your eyes you can probably see patterns even though there is no external stimulus the visual cortex (includes the retina) still produces perception. This is quite different from altered perceptions of stimuli. Unfortunately, we have only one word, phosphenes to describe both nonvisual stimulation of the retina and random viring of visual cortex neurons, and this doesn't cover what one could call "altered states of vision".

So, this brings up the question of what is the nature of reality.

All very Kantian, IMHO (see also my comment in a parallel thread about time and space as external a-priori forms).

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:03:42 PM EST
Ah, found it. Distinct from phosphenes is Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder
Although certain visual aberrations can occur periodically in healthy individuals - e.g. afterimages after staring at a light, noticing the floaters that lay atop the surface of the eye, or seeing specks of light in a darkened room - the difference is a matter of degree. HPPD induces a hyper-sensitivity to ordinary visual phenomena that would otherwise be negligible in their strength. The disorder is thus capable of transforming mundane perceptual effects into a source of distress. In this respect, HPPD can be considered a "disinhibition of visual processing"(Psychedelic Drugs, Abraham, et al, pg. 1548). Yet it is important to emphasize that HPPD is chiefly responsible for creating new disturbances, rather than merely exacerbating those already in existence. It also should be noted that the visuals do not constitute hallucinations in the clinical sense of the word; people with HPPD recognize the visuals to be illusory and thus demonstrate no inability to determine what is real (in contrast to Schizophrenia and other disorders that are known for serious changes in perception).


It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:09:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
My emphases--because as I read it she means that following her experiences she can now switch hemispheres at will.

I understood the same thing.

Migeru:

So, this brings up the question of what is the nature of reality.

Who's reality - because isn't our reality colored by our concepts of reality, past experiences, expectations, etc.?

by Fran on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:11:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the nature of reality is that it is whose reality, that's a partial answer to the question, isn't it?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:13:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that's definitely what the press release for her book claims:
Based upon her academic training and personal experience, Jill helps others not only rebuild their brains from trauma, but helps those of us with normal brains better understand how we can `tend the garden of our minds' to maximize our quality of life.  Jill pushes the envelope in our understanding about how we can consciously influence the neural circuitry underlying what we think, how we feel, and how we react to life's circumstances.  Jill teaches us through her own example how we might more readily exercise our own right hemispheric circuitry with the intention of helping all human beings become more humane.  "I believe the more time we spend running our deep inner peace circuitry, then the more peace we will project into the world, and ultimately the more peace we will have on the planet."
(my emphasis)

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:35:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be very useful, I think, if there's anyone reading this who has these kinds of contacts, to get her into a brain-scanning machine (a non dangerous one--I'm sure they're all non-dangerous!), then run some questions by her, ideally I'd have Fran ask her questions--maybe use the person who's going to take the readings to be the control, and one other--an undergraduate in neuroscience who is only told "You'll be asked some questions"--

to see if she really can flip those switches such that the change in brain activity can be noted--

But why?  Because as ATinNM wrote, there are disorders of the brain--which are distressing to the individuals maybe, or just plain confusing to everyone involved--so visual evidence of the ability to switch from left to right at will--

I can imagine clinical trials, esp. with...I dunno, science has its ways and pharmaceutical companies employ people--

But as a science project, as a brian scientist I'm sure she'd be interested.

In fact, I'd put it the other way and say if she isn't involved in these researches--

If she hasn't been asked--what an excellent research opportunity!

If she's been asked and said no--why would she say no?

And...the bell of caution (the electrons ring--like bells!)...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:27:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As an addition to my fantasy research proposal I would ask her to try some of the classic taste, smell, sight, memory, touch, sound, etc. tests;

see what's firing in there--see if any useful data might be collected?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:32:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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