Celebrity Dick Clark, a stroke survivor like Taylor, writes in Time Magazine about how Taylor combines her scientific training with her experiences recovering from a stroke to reveal the workings of the brain to people with and without disabilities. The new issue will be available on Friday (May 2).
“Some of us must struggle with the day-by-day frustrations of not being able to mount a flight of stairs, pick up a piece of paper or cross the room to get a magazine,” Clark writes. “But there is comfort in better grasping what has gone wrong, and enlightenment for those around you when they grasp it, too.”
Taylor, who teaches neuroanatomy at IU Bloomington for the IU School of Medicine, appreciates the recognition, which comes on the heels of a well-received talk she gave at Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED), an exclusive conference for movers and shakers in these fields as well as in public policy.
“I think Time 100 gives me a platform for using my voice to help people who are different from the normal population — to help people who would be defined as normal look more compassionately upon people who are different from them,” she said.
She is not speaking strictly of people with disabilities. American society, she says, honors and rewards people who are high achievers and “doing, doing, doing,” people whose thinking is dominated by the more analytical left side of their brain, rather than the more creative and compassionate right hemisphere. Taylor says it’s important for people to realize that humans “have two beautiful, very different brains inside our heads” that are communicating as one.
“It’s very important that we recognize and honor the gifts and skills of each and allow ourselves to be more balanced in how we live. There’s a whole other population in our society who are very creative, very musical, very in-the-present-moment and loving and compassionate,” Taylor said. “Many of their gifts are very underrated by a judging society. Thousands and thousands of these people have contacted me simply to say, ‘Thank you.’ It’s been beautiful; just beautiful.”
In 1996, Taylor was a brain scientist at Harvard University. One morning a congenital malformation of the blood vessels in her brain exploded, and for four hours she watched her mind deteriorate “through the eyes of a curious scientist.” Her self-published book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, describes in lay terms the anatomy underlying her experience of stroke and her commitment during the next eight years to rebuild the left side of her brain. To read more about Taylor’s remarkable experience, visit http://newsinfo.iu.edu/web/page/normal/4481.html.
Taylor serves as president of the Greater Bloomington Area Affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She also is the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center’s national spokeswoman for the mentally ill, for which she makes presentations nationwide — often singing to lighten the mood — about the human brain and brain donation. She also studies brain cancer cases at IU’s Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute in Bloomington.