Stroke of Insight: A Window Inside the Brain

Her recovery was a "moment-by-moment experience," she said.

Three weeks after the stroke Taylor underwent brain surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, and as she began her long road to recovery, Taylor says her first priority was regaining language capacity.

"It didn't matter if I couldn't do any math, it wouldn't matter if I didn't learn about the brain or any of my science," she said. "But I did need to be able to speak."

It took eight years for Taylor to fully recover and return to her professional life, and the changes in her life have shifted her area of research.

"This has set me free," she said. "This experience has set me free from the doctrine of hardcore science that I was brought up to believe, into looking at the bigger picture of what is really going on inside the portions of the brain that left hemisphere tools cannot measure or understand."

Freedom and Faith

Taylor says that the experience has also transformed her as a person; she says she's friendlier, more compassionate, more loving, more connected to fellow human beings.

"I consider all my life since Dec. 10, 1996, as gravy time," she said. "Gravy is just this bonus. So, in this bonus time, how can I help us think differently… in order to help decrease the amount of suffering that we are engaged in and that hostility and pain and to project more peace from what we are as a living being? So my intention is completely different. "

Taylor is also giving a number of speeches each month and is in discussions to turn her book into a feature film.

She thinks her story has generated so much interest because it "has an appeal to anyone that has a brain," adding that the response from people who have seen the video has been overwhelming.

"I'm getting these beautiful stories from people that have a sibling or a family member with a severe mental illness or who have had a stroke, and they're desperate to know that these people are still in there. 'How do I find them? What do I do?'"

Taylor doesn't know why she was given this window into a different world.

"This experience happened," she said. "It just happened to someone who had this biological background who then got to observe it and walk away with a different kind of perception."

Taylor doesn't equate that different perception with a transformative religious experience. As a scientist, she says, she doesn't believe in "an external entity sitting on a cloud somewhere… But is there something beyond me, is there something much greater than what I am? Oh, absolutely."

For Taylor, different religions are just different stories, different paths to the same place.

"[Different religions] are ultimately getting to the same consciousness, which would be that right hemisphere, a celebration of what we are. … So, it's the left hemisphere story that gets you to that place. I am not attached to the story, I am not attached to anyone's story. I think whatever story it is, great, if it gets you to the same final destiny then that's a beautiful thing."

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