Self-experimenting author, producer, TEDx speaker and meditation advocate, Vanessa Potter became a “human guinea-pig” for science after a terrifying experience changed her life. After 16 years as an award-winning television producer, Vanessa found herself blind and paralysed for a year following a neurological illness in 2012.
A deep curiosity to better understand the mechanics of her mind propelled her down a new, science-communication path, resulting in collaborations with Cambridge neuroscientists and her first book, Patient H69: The Story of my Second Sight, (Bloomsbury, 2017). In 2015 Vanessa launched an interactive science-art exhibition that translated the public’s mindful brainwaves into music and art and was invited to give a TEDx talk in Belgium. Vanessa then spent 3 years wearing an EEG headset that recorded her live brain activity while experiencing 12 different meditation styles for a study with neuroscientists. This led to her second book, Finding My Right Mind: One Woman’s Experiment to put Meditation to the Test (Welbeck, 2021). Vanessa recently launched ParkBathe, a citizen science, green health initiative in collaboration with Derby University. The project encourages sceptics to experience a 1hr adapted version of Forest Bathing in urban parks and is funded by the National Lottery.
(Forest Bathing is simply walking mindfully in nature). A scientific paper publishing in 2022 suggests this is a new, accessible and highly-effective health model. Vanessa also produces and hosts the ParkBathe podcast. Vanessa has written for Mosaic Science, The Telegraph, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping and has been featured in The Washington Post , The Times and CNN along with many other publications. She has appeared on BBC Radio Four, BBC Shortcuts and in countless podcasts and radio shows in the UK & USA. Vanessa has given talks to health organisations, charities and schools. She is partially sighted and lives in London, UK, with her husband and two children.
"I have had the pleasure of being present at three talks by Vanessa Potter, including one she gave to the science group I convene. On each occasion she has engaged the audience with talks that were both insightful and enjoyable. She is particularly good at conveying science and, in particular, the scientific method to the non-specialist with infectious enthusiasm. I can!t wait for her to speak to my group again."
Dr Grahame Danby CPhys MInstP, Associate Lecturer, Open University
"Vanessa Potter was a guest speaker at a number of Bloomsbury events, including the Wilderness Festival. Speaking about her scientific investigations following her sight loss, her talks were always accessible and highly engaging. Audiences warmed to Vanessa's energy, and there was often a lively Q&A afterwards."
Jim Martin, Publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing
I really am so incredibly humbled by Vanessa's powerful return to sight. It is an amazing achievement to embrace an illness with such raw passion and dedication to heal, let alone document this in such an articulate way. I think Vanessa's strength is something we could all use in bucket loads on a daily basis. I feel honoured that she came to talk to us and shared her story. Thank you.
Rachel D'Cruze, Managing Director, Sydenham Arts