The topic of brain injury can be intense and sobering. Necessarily so. However, sometimes it can help to be inspired by the latest ideas about brain injury rehabilitation that are supported by concrete evidence, delivered by knowledgeable and engaging speakers. Enter TED Talks. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less) about everything from science and medicine to business and art. The live talks are recorded and stored on the internet as videos you can watch for free anytime.
To that end, we’ve curated five TED Talks that we think you will find inspiring – whether you are a clinician, a caregiver or a survivor of brain injury. So, take a few minutes and scroll down for five talks that are both illuminating and thought-provoking.
One day a blood vessel in neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s brain burst. As a scientist, she realized she had a “front row seat” to her own left-hemisphere stroke, and watched as her brain functions shut down one by one. Taylor spent the next eight years recovering her ability to think, walk and talk. She has since become a spokesperson for stroke recovery and for the possibility of coming back from brain injury stronger than ever. In her own words, “How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I’ve gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career.” Hers was the first TED Talk to go viral and since then, her talk has had over 23 million views!
Part of a large and well-known Vermont family that includes artist and renowned glassblower Simon Pearce (his father), Kevin has become a passionate advocate for the prevention of brain injury and the promotion of a brain-healthy lifestyle. A former professional snowboarder who won the Silver Medal for Superpipe at the 2009 Winter X Games at 18 years old, Kevin suffered a traumatic brain injury while doing a double quark as he was training for the Olympic trials in Park City, Utah. And the dramatic moment was all caught on film – which he shows during this talk. Although he was wearing a helmet, the injury left him in a medically induced coma that changed his life forever. He has since co-founded LoveYourBrain LLC. His talk is emotionally inspirational and charmingly funny at the same time.
Regenerative neurologist Siddharthan Chandran describes the science behind neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and MS–using a real-life case study from his clinic named John. John’s MS progressed unusually fast, showing Dr. Chandran the need for more research into speeding up the pace of brain tissue repair. Finally, Dr. Chandran explains the latest developments in treatment and drug use, and how stem cells may be the future of regenerative brain science.
Ann Zuccardy shares her story about the struggles and triumphs of reinventing her life after her traumatic brain injury–after a fall in a bathtub–and discovering surprises about intelligence and creativity. Always an overachiever, Ann was shocked at how much control she lost over her life after her coup contrecoup head injury, which causes injury to the frontal and occipital (back) lobes. Her doctors prescribed months of “brain rest” (no computer time, TV, reading, or any external stimuli) which was horrifying to Ann. She ultimately became depressed at what she perceived was a loss of intelligence, but now realizes “smart” is not so much about how much information you know, but about being adaptive, creative and optimistic about your situation.
Annegret Dettwiler-Danspeckgruber M.S., Ed.D. is a Research Scientist at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Dettwiler discusses what happens to our brains during a concussion, using some well-known athletes as examples. She says these athletes describe it as “feeling like an airplane that is on cruise control without a pilot”, and goes on to explain why concussion is often so hard to diagnose and why we should pay attention to seemingly minor symptoms after a head injury.
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(Image of Kevin Pearce courtesy of TEDx Lincoln Square)