[ExI] The Chattering Hemisphere

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu Apr 16 19:39:32 UTC 2009

Jill Taylor, PhD (in brain science, no less), wrote
some very interesting passages in her book, "My
Stroke of Insight".

Here is a publisher's description:

On the morning of December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a 
thirty-seven-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist, experienced a 
massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her 
brain. A neuroanatomist by profession, she observed her own mind 
completely deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, 
write, or recall any of her life, all within the space of four brief 
hours. As the damaged left side of her brain--the rational, grounded, 
detail- and time-oriented side--swung in and out of function, Taylor 
alternated between two distinct and opposite realties: the euphoric 
nirvana of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt 
a sense of complete well-being and peace; and the logical, sequential 
left brain, which recognized Jill was having a stroke, and enabled her 
to seek help before she was lost completely.

However, on page 32 she wrote

    Via our left hemisphere language centers, our
    mind speaks to us constantly, a phenomenon I
    refer to as "brain chatter". It is that voice
    reminding you to pick up bananas on your way
    home and that calculating intelligence that
    knows when you have to do your laundry.

    There is vast individual variation in the speed
    at which our minds function. For some, our
    dialog of brain chatter runs so fast that we
    can barely keep up with what we are thinking (!)
    Others of us think in language so slowly that
    it takes a long time for us to comprehend.

So she says here and in a couple of other
places that before her stroke this chatter
was virtually non-stop.

Now I'm not that way, and have never been,
(although I become more so with age). Since
both hemisphere are necessary (I gather)
for almost all thought, the left one is doing
something that doesn't involve words when I
work on chess problems and often when I do math.
I think that there are many other situations
too that go non-verbal, but haven't pinned
them down yet.

Is what she's relating partly a woman thing?

What about you? Are you hearing brain chatter
virtually all the time? (My guess is that some
very, very verbal people, e.g. many Ashkenazi
highly Orthodox Jews, somehow do almost all
their thinking with words strongly involved,
while non-visualizers (of every persuasion)
do so less, e.g. Feynman did a lot of visual
thinking, and most extremely smart people use
*all* brain modes).

Love to hear what you think, or what you hear. :)


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