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TED Gets Personal

TED Gets Personal

About a month ago, my boyfriend suffered a stroke. Strokes are normally caused by either clotting or hemorrhaging, but in his case, he had both. This complicated the decisions the doctors needed to make about how to help him, but in the end they removed the clot, and then removed more clots and even put in a stent, all the while monitoring the hemorrhage to make sure the blood thinners they gave him didn’t make it worse. And that was all on the first day.

All told, Lawrence spent over two weeks in the hospital including about a week in the ICU. He’s since been moved to a rehab center for about three weeks. He’s there now, as I write this.

In the days after he had his stroke, I recalled Jill Bolte Taylor’s powerful TED talk and rewatched it. She is a neuroscientist who viewed her own massive stroke as an opportunity to do research. I remembered that from when it was screened at a TEDxPeachtree a number of years ago. But what I had forgotten was that it took her eight years to recover. Eight.

Lawrence’s was called a moderate stroke. His damage was all on the right side of the brain, affecting the left side of his body to varying degrees. It also led to different cognitive issues than he would’ve experienced had the damage been on the left side of his brain. Lawrence’s speech was initially difficult to understand and he was very sleepy, but neither impacted his ability to connect meaning and language. In fact, when I pulled out a pad and pen and asked him – while still in the ICU – if he thought he could write, he did — “I haven’t had any problems organizing thoughts or writing messages.”

But at the same time, as I’ve alluded to in the daily blog I’ve been keeping on his progress, he’s had moments of confusion. Truth is, he is sometimes convinced he is at home, and when I show him he is not, he understands logically, but…

I wanted to find other TED or TEDx talks that could help explain. And what I found was interesting. But it also pointed out how much more there is to learn.

In Vilayanur Ramachandran’s talk on the three clues on understanding your brain he gives examples of what we’ve learned from specific kinds of damage. What he found out about phantom limbs (that they’re actually learned paralysis following the period of time of non-movement before the limb is removed) and that visual input has a critical role, actually has an application for stroke, and I’m wondering how I can apply his findings to my boyfriend’s as yet unresponsive left arm, that magically moves whenever he yawns.

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In Iain McGilchrist’s presentation on the divided brain, (above) he dispels the myth of reason vs emotion residing in different halves of the brain, but makes the point that the left brain is more connected to the concrete and specific and the right to relationships and how we fit into the world. I am not clear on how what is happening to Lawrence works with this, but found it fascinating nonetheless.

I understand that the moments Lawrence is experiencing should go away within a few months as the brain “rewires” itself, but I had no idea how amazingly adaptable the brain is. Michael Merzenich’s talk on the growing evidence of brain plasticity spends most of the time explaining how the brain adapts for each of the specific skills we gain and how that makes us unique, but also shows how damage and natural age-related deterioration can be staved off by exercising our brain more. Hmmm…that got me thinking…just how much we could all gain by watching more TED talks and by attending this year’s TEDxPeachtree.


Wendy Kalman attended the 2009 TEDxPeachtree event and became hooked, volunteering each year ever since. By day, she works as a Proposal Manager, and by night, her alter ego as involved parent, engaged volunteer, music lover, and Facebook addict emerges.

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Buildings that Breathe in the Heat

Buildings that Breathe in the Heat

If you’ve been in Atlanta the last several days, you’ll “feel the heat” that’s been radiating through our streets as the temperature has risen to almost 100 degrees. This heat affects people in different ways. For some, it’s an opportunity to find a body of water or pool as we enter summer. For others, we crank up the air conditioning in our offices and homes. In buildings that use natural light, this requires a lot of energy and cost. As we think about the environment, we have questions about how to ethically and responsibly cool our buildings.

In this talk from TEDxUSC, Doris Kim Sung, a “biology student turned architect” explains how by engineering thermo-bimetal that functions like human skin, we can create structures that provide shade and self-ventilate, essentially creating a metal that “breathes.” Sung shares about the creative ways architects are thinking about modern buildings to more efficiently and effectively serve us.

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The Ripple Effect of Violence

The Ripple Effect of Violence

Gary Haugen has seen poverty- from investigating the Rwandan genocide to working with widows in Zambia, he has seen and heard countless stories of poverty and compassion.

In the past 35 years, the number of people in the world living in extreme poverty has decreased from 50% to 15%. But what seems to be an extreme amount of success has not had the effect that we might hope.

According to Haugen, the way to create a massive ripple effect that will eventually shatter the cause of global poverty can happen by addressing one thing: violence.

Watch Gary’s talk below and see how we can move from creating anti-poverty programs to actually ending poverty worldwide.


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TEDxPeachtree Salutes 2012 Speaker

TEDxPeachtree Salutes 2012 Speaker

For National Poetry Month, we celebrate TEDxPeachtree 2012 speaker Ayoka Chenzira who will receive the Legacy of Leadership Award from Spelman College at the National Women of Color Conference this year. This conference recognizes dynamic women who are visionaries leading in the field of technology.

Chenzira is an educator and international award-winning video artist. She is one of the first African Americans to teach film production in higher education. A pioneer in Black independent cinema, Chenzira is one of the first African-American women to write, produce and direct a 35mm feature film, “Alma’s Rainbow,” one of Billboard Magazine’s top 40 home video rentals. She is also noted as the first African-American woman animator.

Chenzira has worked and lectured extensively on film throughout the United States, South America, and Europe; traversing the African continent collecting oral narratives from women, as well as training and mentoring emerging filmmakers. She is a recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including a Sony Innovator Award for her early work with converging film, video and computer animation.

In 2002, she was honored with the Trailblazer Award from Atlanta’s Black Women’s Film Preservation Society. Chenzira became the first African-American professor to receive a Distinguished Educator Award from technology giant and innovator Apple for her work with storytelling and digital technology in 2003.

Other speakers we are always excited about are Ayodele Heath from the 2014 TEDxPeachtree Salon and Rachel Pendergrass from 2013.

Be sure to check out our playlist and information for them below.

Ayoka Chenzira:

Ayodele Heath:





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