As her brain began to shut down during her stroke, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist and spokeswoman for the Harvard Brain Bank, was fascinated by the process. The stroke left her unable to speak, walk, or remember anything about her former self. She became, in effect, a 37-year-old newborn. Once her condition stabilized, surgeons removed a golf-ball-sized clot from her brain. That was in 1996. Bolte Taylor spent the next eight years recovering and creating a new self. Her poignant TED Talk, My Stroke of Insight, went viral in 2008. Martha Henry reached her by phone at her home in Indiana.
At Harvard Medical School, all first-year students are required to take the Gross Anatomy Lab, part of “The Human Body” course. A few of my journalist friends were auditing the class, so I asked to come along. I wanted to get close to death, but in a clinical sort of way. Continue reading Holding Brains