Indiana State University Newsroom



ISU grad makes Time magazine list of world's most influential people

May 1, 2008

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Tim Russert are on the list along with Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Springsteen and the Dalai Lama.

Terre Haute native and Indiana State University graduate Jill Bolte Taylor is there, too.

What kind of a list is this? Only a list of the 100 most influential people in the world, as judged by Time magazine in the issue that hits newsstands Friday (May 2).

So just what does this Taylor gal do? She plays guitar and sings. It's what she sings about that gets her on a list that includes politicians, actors, a respected national broadcast journalist and spiritual leaders.

She strums away on her acoustic guitar and intones about the need for donations of brains for scientific research and medical education.

"I am a brain banker, asking for a deposit from you," she sings.

That's right, she wants your brain. She doesn't want it for herself, mind you. Though it was once severely damaged, her 48-year-old brain now works just fine.

Taylor was already known as "Dr. Jill - the Singin' Scientist" even before suffering a major stroke at age 37. But her personal experience of surviving a cerebral hemorrhage and subsequent surgery to remove a golf ball-sized blood clot lends credibility to her message as she lectures - and sings - on behalf of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, or Harvard "Brain Bank," for short.

She also wrote a book called "My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey," about her recovery from the stroke and her unique experience as a scientist in gaining first-person insight into the workings of the brain.

"Through her writings and lectures, she has done perhaps more than anyone else to explain, both to the healthy and the stricken, what a stroke is," entertainer and fellow stroke survivor Dick Clark writes in the Time segment about Taylor.

Appearing in the national publication with a circulation of more than 3 million fulfills a long-time goal for the neuroanatomy instructor at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Bloomington.

"I want to be on the cover of Time, holding my guitar and a brain," Taylor told the Indiana State University magazine when she was interviewed five years after her stroke. "I see it as a platform for awareness of the beauty and the resiliency of the brain."

But being touted among the world's most influential individuals is something that exceeds even her loftiest goal.

"I figured if I could be there with a brain for the beauty of the science and a guitar for the beauty of the spirit of what we are, then that would be just a fabulous combination, but this honor, I never expected this,” she says of the recognition.

Taylor credits a March lecture in Monterey, Calif. for getting the attention of Time's editors. She spoke to an organization known as TED, which stands for "technology, entertainment and design."

TED bills itself as "1,000 of the world's top movers and shakers," she said. Once posted online at TED.com, her 18-minute lecture spread rapidly, registering 250,000 views in 24 hours and being embedded in approximately 80 other Web sites.

During her lectures, Taylor is known to hold an actual human brain as she describes her amazing story - not only of survival but of changing her life for the better following her stroke.

Her ability to speak and understand language was wiped out. During her recovery, she discovered she had the ability to decide which brain circuits to develop and which to discard.

"There were personality characteristics that I didn't need any more. That little "ah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah" mean little voice in me - that little critical judgment that would look and be critical of either myself or others - I didn't need her anymore. She didn't really service a function in who I wanted to grow up to be," she says.

"When people really get that we have a choice in how we want to be in the world and that moment by moment we get to make that choice and we consciously realize what those options are and we consciously choose the more peaceful route, I think that that's a profoundly important message."

An ISU Distinguished Alumna, Taylor says pursuing her Ph.D. at Indiana State gave her the advantage of both a mid-sized university and the I-U Medical School branch that is housed on the Indiana State campus. Following completion of her Ph.D. in 1991, she went on to receive additional training at Harvard University.

"When I got to Harvard I was literally better educated than many of the Harvard kids and I'm very grateful for that."

Oh, about that opportunity she offers you - you know, the chance to give up your brain in the name of science. Just in case you wondered, it can wait until - well, until you don't need it anymore.

"Don't worry "¦ I'm in no hurry," goes another line in her Brain Banker ditty.

If you’d like to know more about how this whole brain donation thing works, contact the Harvard Brain Bank at 1-800-BRAIN BANK or visit the Brain Bank Web site at www.brainbank.mclean.org.

Photos:
Holding a human brain, and standing next to CAT scan images of her own brain taken following a 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor points to the region of the brain where the hemorrhage occurred. Taylor, who holds a Ph.D. in life sciences from Indiana State University, teaches neuroanatomy at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Bloomington. (ISU/Kara Berchem)

Jill Bolte Taylor, the "Singin'Scientist," sits for a videotaped interview at her Bloomington home after being selected by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Taylor holds a Ph.D. in life sciences from Indiana State University and is the national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center. (ISU/Kara Berchem)

Contact: Jill Bolte Taylor, "Singin' Scientist," at drjill@drjilltaylor.com

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Terre Haute native Jill Bolte Taylor, who holds a Ph.D. in life sciences from Indiana State University, has been recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Taylor recovered from a major stroke at age 37. She promotes brain donation for research and education.

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