Tate Student Forum: The Brain Scientist Who Survived a Stroke

February 23, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Jill Bolte Taylor answers questions at the Turner Construction/Wells Fargo Student Forum Tuesday afternoon. (PHOTO BY AIDA AHMED / THE DAILY MUSTANG)

Jill Bolte Taylor answers questions at the Turner Construction/Wells Fargo Student Forum Tuesday afternoon. (PHOTO BY AIDA AHMED / THE DAILY MUSTANG)

By Aida Ahmed

Best-selling author and neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor shared some details of her inspiring story with SMU students and faculty Tuesday afternoon at the Turner Construction/Wells Fargo Student Forum.

Taylor, who decided to study the brain after her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, had a rare opportunity to study her own brain.

In 1996 she suffered a stroke that wiped out her memory and left her unable to speak, read or write. The experience was the basis for her book, “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey”.

Taylor said that the most traumatic part of the experience was not being able to put her thoughts and emotions into music.

Before the stroke, the doctor was known as the “singing scientist”. As a postmortem brain tissue researcher at Harvard University, Taylor would travel around the country talking about the value of brain tissue donation and would sing a “brain jingle” every where she went. After the stroke, she could not even make out letters or symbols.

“How does one relearn?” asked Taylor. “I knew all this stuff, but I could not access it.”

She said she was essentially a two-year-old stuck in a woman’s body, but one thing she could do was read peoples’ energies.

“I could tell if the intonation of a voice matched the face and if people were telling the truth,” said Taylor.

The brain scientist said she felt that she was fully recovered after eight years of therapy and a major brain surgery in which doctors removed a golf ball-sized clot that was placing pressure on the left hemisphere of her brain.

Her story gained national attention after speaking at a Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference Talk in 2008. After launching her memoir, Oprah asked her to be on her show. Later that year, her story earned her a spot in “Time Magazine’s” 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Joe Green, a graduate student in Perkins School of Theology said he was told about her book after he recovered from a stroke he had when he was 15.

“When you have a stroke everyone wants to give you something to relate to,” said Green. He wasn’t interested in reading about someone else having a stroke until he saw a video of Dr. Taylor on the TED Conference Talk.

“I was kind of timid and didn’t want to talk about [the stroke], but her story gave me the strength,” said Green.

The doctor said she too gained insight from the experience. Insight into what it’s like to live in a society where you are going at a different pace and have a different perception of reality.

Senior biology and philosophy double major Alex Frolou said he found her experience useful.

“Her whole story offers insight on the brain which is really important, even in philosophical debates,” Frolou said.

Taylor said it became her personal mission to help people realize that they have love and compassion from their right brain that gets pushed back in the fast urgency of the left brain.

“Sometimes we can step back and pause,” said Taylor.

In addition to her book getting published in 27 different languages, Taylor is in the final contractual dealings for a movie of her life starring Jodie Foster.

Campus News Blog: Perkins School of Theology Hosts Visiting Professor

September 30, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Amanda Frederick

Dr. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Professor of Social Ethics and Theology at the Theological School of Drew University, will be a visiting professor at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. The duration of her time at Perkins will be from October 25 through November 3.  Dr. Isasi-Diaz will speak on Thursday, October 29th about “Reconciliation: The Face of Justice in the 21st Century”. The lecture will be located in the Great Hall of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall at 7:00 p.m. Dr. Isasi-Diaz has been lecturing at universities across the country for several months.  The lecture is free and will be open to the general public.

SMU Unveils Elizabeth Prothro Perkins Hall

September 14, 2009 by · Comments Off 

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SMU Earns Second in Dive and Swim Event

October 26, 2008 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Casey Gibeaut

I attended the SMU Swimming and Diving Classic Friday and Saturday nights at the Perkins Natatorium and was fortunate to see some phenomenal swimmers. The meet consisted of some of swim teams from SMU, UNC, ASU, Wisconsin, Alabama and the University of Southern California, which won the event.

It was awesome to see the meet because not only did SMU tie for second place with UNC, but Olympic Silver Medalist Rebecca Soni was in the SMU pool swimming for USC. She set another collegiate pool record in the 200 meter breaststroke.

Click here for the full results and statistics from this weekend’s event.