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Posted: June 10, 2009

Mind over matter

Brain researcher to lead June 12-13 workshop on getting your brain to do what you want it to

Mary Butler

Thought control can be a good thing. Just ask Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained brain researcher and author of the 2006 New York Times bestseller, “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey.”

“If you wake up in the morning and you start thinking about things that make you angry,” Taylor said, “maybe instead of thinking about those things, you can change your mind and think about something else. But you have to be willing to do it.”

Sounds easy, right? And she says it is.

On Friday and Saturday, Taylor will be in Lakewood at Mile Hi Church leading a two-day workshop about the lessons she learned from a debilitating stroke that left her unable to walk, talk, read or write.

If you go:
What: Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
When: Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to noon
Where: Mile Hi Church, 9077 Alameda Ave., Lakewood
Cost: $30 Friday; $30 Saturday or $50 for Friday and Saturday
Register: or (303) 232-4079

The experience, Taylor said, “brought to life all the neuroscience I had learned about how the brain organizes information, and what are the differences between the two hemispheres in the way that they process information.” 

It was her brother’s schizophrenia that first captivated Taylor and drove her to study the post-mortem brain as it related to mental illness. She wanted to better understand how two people so genetically similar could be so different. “To me, his brain was really the biological difference between the two of us,” she said.

But at the age of 37, suddenly it was her own brain that captured her attention.

“I woke up to discover I had a brain disorder of my own,” she said. A blood vessel had exploded, and over the course of four hours, “I watched my brain deteriorate in its ability to process information, and I have to say that through the eyes of a scientist it was an absolutely fascinating experience,” Taylor said.

Taylor details her stroke and recovery in her book. But the workshops take Taylor’s insights a step further.  

The first night is a public presentation. Taylor said she will talk about “who we are and what we are” from a biological perspective. Saturday morning’s workshop, however, will help participants delve into the personalities of their brains’ right and left hemispheres.

Unlike a Myers-Briggs personality test, Taylor said she helps people zero in on the two distinct personalities that exist within each person’s head.

“I’m interested in helping individuals figure out who’s who inside of themselves,” Taylor said. “It’s about helping to capitalize on the characteristics of the hemispheres to help balance one another, appreciate one another, respect one another and honor one another… They are your tools in the world.”

Her journey has led Taylor to be named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2008; and when she’s not leading workshops, she is a neuroanatomist affiliated with the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute in Bloomington, Ind. She’s also the national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, aka “brain bank.”

"It’s been a blessing to be able to share with other individuals what I have gained because of this experience,” Taylor said.

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Mary Butler is ColoradoBiz's online editor.

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