This diary is to encourage you to watch and then comment on the following video:
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.
The video (20 minutes--well worth it!):
For those who can't watch videos here's the transcript:
All I can say is that her description of life in her right hemisphere sounded a lot like the effects of psilocybin (as I have understood and experienced them.)
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.
In the comments after the transcript comes this:
The state of mind of euphoria and oneness with all, described by Dr. Taylor during ensuing brain damage due to stroke somewhat disturbs me. Imagine yourself as a person walking around in the right-brain only perceptual state, being attacked by robbers, hucksters who want money, or any type of opportunist seeking an advantage. In this state, one would simply give them whatever they wanted. One's survival probability would be close to zero. Even if one dies happy, that is still death and therefore immoral.
The method of cult religions is to make people into thought slaves by forcing victims into this same perceptual blindness in which one gives up the "self". This facilitates turning the victim into a physical slave who does not complain and with behavior that is always compliant, even against the victim's survival needs.
Also, a person in this state is not likely to solve problems of the world such as disease no matter how willing one is because solving problems requires insight from realistic analysis of the past and prediction of consequences, a left brain skill. And how likely are people in this state to be motivated to do physical labor such as farming or building structures for shelter, unless they are forced by others who are not in a right-brained perception only state?
This is the kind of reaction I would expect if one assumes that the choice is either right hemisphere OR left hemisphere. But it seems to me that what Jill Bolte Taylor is saying is different: she is saying that it is possible (at least for her) to move freely from hemisphere to hemisphere; to use the left brain for the "working out the past and anticipating the future" aspects of her life, while using her right brain for the "appreciating the here and now" aspects.
I can see that meditation (as I've understood it) is a tool to bring right brain focus; I can see that the arts are about catching the right brain's attention.
I can see that a person who hasn't had a direct experience of "realizing that my hands looked like primitive claws grasping onto the bar. I thought "that's very peculiar" and I looked down at my body and I thought, "whoa, I'm a weird-looking thing" is going to be wary of subjective experience of this type.
(It's one of the problems when discussing altered consciousness experiences. Those who have had their consciousness altered talk about experiences they have had; those who haven't talk about experiences they imagine--and what they imagine it signifies. Sort of like the difference between talking about the summit of the Matterhorn based on what you'd read--and then standing on it. Or maybe not ;)
After watching the presentation I got an urge to know more about the corpus callosum. I didn't realise that the left and right hemispheres are entirely separate--when she lets the two hemispheres fall away from each other--
So, this is a real human brain. This is the front of the brain, the back of the brain with a spinal cord hanging down, and this is how it would be positioned inside of my head. And when you look at the brain, it's obvious that the two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another. For those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functions like a parallel processor. While our left hemisphere functions like a serial processor. The two hemispheres do communicate with one another through the corpus collosum, which is made up of some 300 million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate
What do you think?