Monday, June 29, 2015

#LTW: The #Gifted Human Brain - It's all Biology

Welcome back to Lighting the Way. Last week we learned some gifted children are misdiagnosed because they do not exhibit characteristics that are often believed to be a part a gifted person's personality nor intellect. The main problem when trying to define who is gifted and who is not is that not all gifted exhibit the same quirks. Much of what we know today about the gifted population has been learned through brain research. 

Inside the Gifted Mind

The gifted mind is a very complex organ that has intrigued scholars throughout history. Mrazik and Dombrowski (2010) stated through much of history, scholars had believed a person’s intellectual ability was determined by their brain size. Educators and researchers have learned much about how the gifted brain works through current brain research.

The Cerebral Cortex

NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, MD (Asher, 2006) found IQ is not linked to the size of a person’s brain but how fast the cerebral cortex develops. The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of a human brain that contains folded grey matter. The folded grey matter can be divided into four functional parts known as the temporal, frontal, occipital and parietal lobes. Zerhouni (Asher, 2006) found the cerebral cortex of students with superior IQ’s (130 and above) thickens more rapidly than their non-gifted peers. The relationship between a student’s IQ and the rapidly growing cerebral cortex varies with age, especially in the prefrontal cortex.

Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the cerebral cortex that covers the frontal lobe, which is located directly behind the forehead. Bruning, Shaw & Norby (2011) stated the frontal lobe is associated with executive regulation of learning, regulations of emotions and long-term memory functions. Zerhouni (Asher, 2006) found students with superior IQ’s may have prolonged thickening in the prefrontal cortex at an early age that allows for their early abstract reasoning, planning and other executive learning capabilities. Gifted children do not keep these abilities for long in their youth. Zerhouni (Asher, 2006) found gifted children’s cerebral cortex go through a thinning process that eliminates unused brain cells, neurons and any connections they could have made. Bruning, Shaw & Norby (2011) describe the brain’s process of discarding unused neurons as pruning. The pruning process continues in gifted children’s brains until the brain becomes more efficient during the teen years.

Asher, J. (2006) Cortex Matures Faster in Youth with Highest IQ. Retrieved from National Institute of Health website:
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Treffinger, D (Ed.). (2003). Creativity and Giftedness. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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