Sunday, November 23, 2008

High-Aptitude Minds

Reference: Hoppe, C., & Stojanovic, J. (2008). High-Aptitude Minds. Scientific American Mind: Brain, 19(4), 60-67.


            This particular article is quite fascinating. If you have the time I suggest you take a look at it! The article begins with a description of a high-aptitude mind, reviewing the IQ test scores and brain size as factors relating to giftedness. The article discusses the fact that when Albert Einstein died they sliced his brain into 240 pieces and stored them in jars for safekeeping and research. I was surprised to learn that Einstein’s parietal lobe (an area thought to be critical for visual and mathematical thinking) was 15% wider than 35 men of normal cognitive ability. “Despite the quest to unravel the roots of high IQ, researchers say that people often overestimate the significance of intellectual ability. Studies show that practice and perseverance contribute more to accomplishment than being smart does.”

            The article continues discussing different research available on giftedness and its relation to the brain. One particular aspect that is fascinating in this discussion is that academic prodigies younger than eight had a thin cerebral cortex. What makes this statement interesting is that the cerebral cortex thickened rapidly soon after so that by late childhood it was thicker than that of the less clever children.

            Within this article are sub-articles or small boxes of information that relate to the overall article. One particular box, “Right over Left,” suggests that genius areas such as math, music and art are accompanied by extensive use of the right hemisphere of the brain. Another interesting aspect was that these mathematically, musically, and artistically gifted people tended to be left-handed, and have left-hemisphere deficits such as stuttering or dyslexia.

            Another such article, “Musical Minds” discusses the biological underpinnings of musical talent. “Christian Gaser of the University of Jena in Germany and neurologist Gottfried Schlaug of Harvard Medical School also reported gray matter volume differences in motor, auditory, and visuospatial brain regions in professional keyboard players as compared with amateur musicians and nonmusicians.” Many researchers suggest that a bulk of these structural and functional brain differences result from lots of practice. 


            I found this article interesting because it discussed different reasons for giftedness. Although it is difficult to apply directly to the classroom, I still think this information is useful for an educator to know. Understanding how gifted children develop and what their strengths are could help teachers plan more appropriate activities for them. In addition, understanding what the strengths are of musically gifted students is important for curriculum planning as well. By knowing the strengths of these students and the set-backs one can help students improve on areas that they struggle with thus furthering their abilities. Finally, I think it is good to emphasize with students the fact that hard work and dedication do make a difference to the structural and functional brain. It is more encouraging to know that a change can be made. 

No comments: