Dr. Susan Hummel knows repetitive handwork helps the brain. This lesson begins in graduate school, when she survives a collision. Doctors aren’t sure when she’ll recover. That was in 1993. Confused, determined, Susan rejoins a world she inhabits differently than before. Sensations of color, sound, space, and time feel altered. She lives with hyperacusis, imbalance, and photophobia. Relief comes outdoors where, while studying forests, she notices some symptoms ease. Susan starts paying close attention to advances in brain science, where a revolution is underway.

Neuroplasticity offers Susan reason for optimism and so does the theory of active inference. A new life blooms, one supported by careful routines and loving relationships. But the good times don’t last, and Susan’s symptoms worsen. Diagnostic tools are available by 2012 that were lacking two decades prior.  Tiny holes inside the bony labyrinth of Susan’s skull are identified and patched surgically.  A second convalescence reinforces Susan’s earlier observations that recovery from brain injury is boosted by engaging her hands and feet in absorbing activities, like needlework, writing, and walking. By 2023, owing to more technological advances, she understands why. The motor cortex is interwoven with a somato-cognitive action network, which implies bodily movement is integral to human cognition and brain development. While the brain gets the lion’s share of research attention, thinking involves more than neural processes within the head. These neuroscientific discoveries match Susan’s observations during recovery; together they support the theory of embodied cognition. Humans are whole-body learners.


Susan earned degrees from Georgetown University (B.A. 1984); University of Oregon (M.A. 1988); and Oregon State University (Ph.D. 1997). A Jesuit education prompted her public service career in forest science, from which she is now retired.  Patchwork Labyrinth® is her first book of creative non-fiction. For a list of Susan’s publications, click here. Connect with her here: contact page