Monday, December 22, 2014

A Stroke of Insight

Most of us who work in jobs as researchers always take an outsider's perspective. In fact, if there is any down side to being a reporter (and in my opinion, there are very few downsides to this fabulous job), it is the constant requirement to stand back from what we cover. That's how it is for all types of researchers who, if they are ethical, work to maintain a certain distance from their subject matter.

A Stroke of Insight

Most of us who work in jobs as researchers always take an outsider's perspective. In fact, if there is any down side to being a reporter (and in my opinion, there are very few downsides to this fabulous job), it is the constant requirement to stand back from what we cover. That's how it is for all types of researchers who, if they are ethical, work to maintain a certain distance from their subject matter.

That's all well and good, but Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain researcher and neuroscientist, was forced to abandon that stance when she had a huge stroke at the age of 37.  She lost language and computation skills, but retained, even as blood vessels were bursting in brain, the scientist's attitude. As she recovered, she wrote a book titled, "A Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey."

This was another vacation book for me and I also recommend it, along with "A Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York," which I wrote about in yesterday's blog post. I appreciate Taylor's willingness and desire to reach beyond her scientific papers to explain complicated brain anatomy to us mere mortals. (And as reporter and writer, I understand how hard it can be to "translate" technical material to a general audience.) She provides thoughtful insight into how we can use a very objective understanding of brain chemistry and function to enhance our psychological well being.

So often in life we learn a lesson and have no opportunity to apply it. When I see how I feel about my children growing older, for example, I wish I had done things differently with my parents, who are now both dead. But Taylor was given a gift. She had the opportunity to marry her scientific background with an enhanced emotional understanding of the brain's functioning. Now she can use them both, together, to improve life for herself, for stroke victims and the caregivers and for all her readers. That's a blessing.

About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
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