Brains on Fire: The Multimodality of Gifted Thinkers - By Brock Eide M.D.
M.A. and Fernette Eide M.D.
Functional brain magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brings exciting new insights
into our understanding of how gifted thinkers think. The first thing you notice
when you look at the fMRIs of gifted groups is that it looks like a `brain on fire.`
Bright red blazes of high metabolic activity burst out all over the scan. Each red
patch represents millions of microcombustion events in which glucose is metabolized
to provide fuel for the working brain. Gifted brains are remarkably intense and
diffuse metabolizers. But the amazing insights do not stop there.
The orchestration of activity is planned and complex, and it seems to require
the coordination of diverse visual, spatial, verbal, and sensory areas of brain.
Gifted thinkers are rarely one-mode thinkers. Rather, they are great organizers
of diverse and multimodal information. For teachers and parents of young gifted
thinkers, we begin to understand why certain young gifted thinker go awry, and why
organization should be an essential aspect of gifted education.
There is the abundant available evidence that gifted children show enhanced sensory
activation and awareness. Gifted brains are essentially "hyper-sensitive," and can
be rendered even more so through training. Not only are the initial impressions
especially strong, but also the later recollections are often unusually intense
Because vivid initial impressions correlate with better recollection, gifted
brains are also characterized by increased memory efficiency and capacity. These
memories are not only especially intense and enduring memories, but they are also
frequently characterized by multimodality, involving memory areas that store many
different types of memories, such as personal associations, different sensory modalities
like color, sound, smell, or visual images, or verbal or factual impressions. This
multimodality means that gifted thinkers often make connections in ways other people
don`t. They frequently have special abilities in associational thinking (including
analogy and metaphor) and in analytical or organizational skills (through which
diverse associations are understood and systematized).
As a result of these special brain characteristics, gifted thinkers typically
enjoy benefits including more vivid sensing, prodigious memory, greater fund of
knowledge, more frequent and varied associations, and greater analytic ability.
However, these same neurological characteristics carry a number of potential drawbacks,
including sensory, emotional, and memory overload, sensory hypersensitivities, personal
disorganization, sensory distractibility, delayed processing due to "analysis paralysis"
(or getting "lost in thought" due to an excess of options), and mental fatigue.
One of the keys to maintaining this appropriate balance lies within the front
of the brain of gifted thinkers. This balance can be achieved through a coordinated
interaction of the right and left lobes in what we`ve termed "Creative Corporate
Thinking." Creative Corporate Thinking consists of a partnership between the Chief
Executive Officer (CEO) on the left, and the Creativity Director on the right. The
interaction between these two entities is that "corporate balancing act" between
the "Suit" or CEO on the left that focuses and prioritizes goals, works out details,
and implements strategies, and the "Talent" or Creativity Director on the right
that dreams, combines ideas, sensations, and images, generates alternative approaches,
and is oriented toward the "Big Picture." Each of these functions has its distinct
"corporate culture" with its unique style and language, and each is essential for
good corporate function. The key to optimal thinking is to maintain productive communication
and cooperation bet ween the two sides. This cooperation is essential regardless
of the task. Even seemingly "analytical" skills like print involve tremendous amounts
of imaginative, dreamy, associational thinking; and even seemingly "abstract and
creative" skills like painting or sculpting involve tremendous amounts of detailed
There are a number of implications of these findings about gifted brains for
teaching gifted children. First, because of their enhanced sensitivity, gifted children
tend to learn with fewer repetitions, and to need less extensive explanations in
class, although it is important to remember that their sensitivity may be modality
specific (that is, hearing, seeing, kinesthetic) rather than across the board. Enhanced
sensitivity also frequently results in enhanced distractibility, and gifted children
may at times be suspected because of this to have ADHD. However, it is important
to remember that in gifted children, distractibility is frequently accompanied by
considerable persistence, and even though their attention seems often to wander,
so long as it keeps returning to the task at hand and the work gets done, it should
not be considered an impediment. In fact, there is considerable evidence that such
"distractibility" is one of the roots of creativity. Enhanced sensitivity that results
in impaired learnin g, however, whether because of distractibility to visual, auditory,
tactile, or other sensory cues, is a real problem that requires evaluation and treatment.
Second, because of their enhanced memory, gifted children require less review
and come to class with more outside knowledge than other children. Frequently they
acquire knowledge through "incidental learning"--that is, snatches of overheard,
glimpsed, or observed information that are taken in outside of their formal education.
Because of their combination of enhanced sensitivity and memory, these kids are
like "cognitive flypaper" in that they grab and hold onto ideas and information
much more avidly than their peers. Too often this facility for acquiring information
has been interpreted as a sign that gifted education should consist of "filling
up their brains" with vast quantities of information. However, the exact opposite
is true. Because gifted students are able with significantly less effort to acquire
the standard knowledge base, information acquisition should actually be given less
space in the curriculum rather than more. Rather than simply acquiring more facts,
these students should use their e xtra time learning how to think like expert. They
are already information wealthy--they do not need a greater largesse of facts. What
they need is to learn what to do with what they already have.
Finally, we believe that a greater proportion of gifted education be allocated
toward learning how to organize and process information. Gifted children have a
critical need to: understand the nature of their thinking, understand the quality
of their information, and understand the uses of information.
By "understanding the nature of thinking" we mean the sort of metacognitive training
(or "thinking about thinking") that would allow gifted thinkers more effectively
to direct and manage their own thinking. This training would equip them to understand
the nature of memory, sensory processing, mental organization and learning styles,
and would arm them with knowledge of mnemonic, organizational, interpersonal, and
other problem solving strategies. This training would enable them to approach specific
problems and learning in general with the greatest possible chance of success. Gifted
students need more time for rumination and reflection, moving back toward a classical
model of education in which a few resources were studied in depth and reflected
on at length, rather immersed in barrage of information whose depths they are never
allowed to explore.
By "understanding the nature of information" we mean equipping students with
the ability to evaluate the quality or status of a piece of information as knowledge.
With the increasing availability of information in overwhelming amounts from the
Internet, it is especially important that students have the ability to independently
evaluate the quality and reliability of information. They must be able to ask the
right questions of information and be able to evaluate the answers they receive.
They must be able to recognize when something is proved or not, what kinds of information
count as knowledge and what only as opinions, which sorts of questions can receive
final answers, and which only provisional ones. They must be shown how knowledge
is acquired and validated in the real world; what the nature of expertise really
is in different fields; and how they can play a role in the advance of knowledge.
In this way, they will come to realize that knowledge is a dynamic process rather
than a static repository of information.
Students need to seek for instrumental or practical uses of information as well
as their rational value. In contrast to the abstract, ahistorical way in which subjects
like math and science are often taught, children need to learn that society has
been advanced by attempts to answer questions that were of practical value to a
community, rather than the pursuit of knowledge "for its own sake."
Finally, we recommend training gifted students in a discipline we called "neuro-rhetoric"--that
is, teaching them how to understand the structure and power of arguments, and how
it affects what we know. Increasing students` self-awareness about their own thinking
and reasoning processes--and about the nature of information itself--will ideally
equip them both to live as productive leaders in our current information age, but
will also allow them to take their places as participants rather than mere observers
in the ages old process of seeking and advancing knowledge.
About the Authors: Brock and Fernette
Eide are physicians and consultants to a wide range of parent, teacher, and clinical
groups seeking more information about learning and brain-based solutions. Together
they have authored more than 50 articles and they speak internationally for keynote
lectures, seminars, and small groups. The Eides have a free Neurolearning Newsletter
and can be contacted through their website at:
www.neurolearning.com or by email at:
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view some brain fMRIs, log onto
Smoothing the Step-Parenting Transition - By Judy Lavin
Three years ago, when John and Julie Smith fell in love and decided to
marry they wanted to know what they could do to ease the transition of their marriage
on their children. Each had 2 biological children of their own, ranging in age from
8 to 16 and John and Julie knew that getting the families together could be challenging.
Unlike other people in their situation, however, John and Julie were able to discuss
many of the typical stepfamily issues before the wedding, which enabled them to
smooth their transition into becoming a merged-family.
These days with the increase in stepfamilies across the United States, more and
more people are wisely acting like the Smiths. What should stepparents-to-be discuss
before jumping into a second or third marriage? There are several things parents
can do to help their children adjust to the fact that they are introducing a ?new
parent? into their household. Dr. Margorie Engel, President of the Stepfamily Association
of America in Lincoln, Nebraska (www.saafamilies.org; 1-800-735-0329) suggests the
following 10 tips to help smooth the transition:
1. Read and understand basic child development so you don?t mistake developmentally
normal behaviors as inappropriate, uncooperative or as personally against you. ?If
you are non-parents, what do you know about kids and their developmental stages??
Engel asks. By understanding basic child development, the stepparent will know that
a two-year-old?s NOs, for example, are developmentally appropriate, so that the
stepparent won?t take the lack of cooperation personally.
2. Be aware that the first couple of years of marriage are chaotic. Typically,
it takes 5 to 7 years for a stepfamily to become cohesive. Initially, everything
is up in the air?people are trying to understand each other and find their position
in the group. It can be difficult.
3. Lower your expectations. Stepparents do not have the power or authority to
?fix? their stepchildren or the family. Only a biological parent has that ability.
4. Make the discipline roles clear. Talk with your to-be spouse about what the
household rules (i.e., Bedmaking required? Clearing your plate? Watching TV before
homework? Which church to attend?) and personal rules (will you allow them to borrow
your clothes? If so, are the clothes to be returned to you drycleaned?) are going
5. Discuss the external household rules, such as how will you handle medical
care if the biological parent isn?t there to sign a release. Stepparents do not
have legal authority, unless it is given to them.
6. Talk about money issues. The Stepfamily Association of America has tapes and
booklets discussing everything from planning a wedding to doing your own will and
estate. Look for information concerning financial issues and figure out as many
as you can before you?re married.
7. Keep you and your spouse?s bond strong. ?The couple bond is the core of the
success of the stepfamily,? said Engel. People have to build their relationship,
alone. That way kids can see how a healthy adult relationship works.
8. Get creative. Friendships are created through a shared history in the family.
You have to create shared memories. Snap pictures of the family doing things together
and display the photos out. Find ways to do things with your stepchildren to create
a shared memory. Baking, planting, skiing on a trip, whatever creates those special
moments should be encouraged.
9. Make changes slowly. You don?t want to change things all at once. Make your
own traditions, but do it over time.
10. Discuss discipline and make sure the biological parent is the one carrying
out the discipline of his or her child.
Judith Lavin and her family spent
nearly 16 years struggling with and triumphing over the complex medical challenges
faced by her two daughters. Lavin, author of Special Kids Need Special Parents,
Berkley Books, 2001, and a former journalist with the Chicago Sun-Times, recognized
the need for an easy-to-read resource for physically and emotionally exhausted parents
like herself, as well as their families, teachers, doctors and others who work with
them. Lavin?s work has been featured in numerous publications such as The Chicago
Tribune, The Chicago Sun Times, Newsday, Washington Parent and Chicago Parent and
on radio CBS Radio Network and TV news and talk shows including the Today Show and
Small Talk for Parents from PBS Chicago around the U.S.
The Stepfamily Association of America publishes YOUR STEPFAMILY, a magazine dealing
with common stepfamily issues and offers a six-week class for families that is designed
to work with support groups or professionals called Smart Steps for Adults and Children
in Stepfamilies ($150.).
Children articles index
- Brains on Fire: The Multimodality of Gifted Thinkers - By Brock Eide
- laying Baby Computer Games ? The New Parent-Child Tradition? - By Emma
- Book Excerpt: Einstein Never Used Flash Cards - By Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph
- Putting Fun Into Parenting - By David Stoepker, Psy.D., & Erin Brown Con
- Preparing Your Child for a High-Tech Future - By Sue Sato
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - Predominantly Inattentive
- Abandonment - By Sonya Green
- Explaining Suicide to Children - by Tracy Pierson
- Our Children`s Needs - by Robert Elias Najemy
- How to Develop Self-Esteem in Children - By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.
- Helping Children Overcome Stress and Fear - By Debbie Milam
- Do you Shout at YOUR children? - By James Middleton
- Book Excerpt: Helping Children with Autism Learn - By Bryna Siegel,
- SPEED SPELLING: Another way to use speed reading skills for "schoolwork&q
- Children and Stress - By Laura Silva Quesada
- Boundaries- Why Are They Needed? - by Derek Randel & Gail Randel M.D.
- Juggling Home
- Explaining World tragedy to Children - By Chick Moorman and Thomas Ha
- Children and Pessimism - By Carol Tuttle
- Loving Yourself, Loving Your Children - By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
- Social Manners for Children - By Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach
- The Sexual Abuse of Children - By J. Bailey Molineux
- A Few Simple Truths About ADHD and Stimulant Drugs - By Steve Edelman1,
- DYSLEXICS and A.D.D. KIDS BECOME GIFTED SPEED READERS - by George Stanc
- Using Feng Shui for Better Behaved Children - By Kathryn Weber
- Book Excerpt: Helping Children with Autism Learn - By Bryna Siegel,
- Five Keys to Raising Nonviolent Children - By Tammy Cox, LMSW
- The Best Way to Reduce Stress: Start Young - By Zach Brull
- Your Child?s Self-Esteem is in The Cards - By Susan Howson
- Calming Tips for Hyperactive Children - By Jeannine Virtue
- What is ADHD? - By Jeannine Virtue
- Talking to Your Children About Sex - By Jan Andersen
- How Our Children Really Learn And Why They Need To Play More And Memo
- HOW DO WE PROTECT OUR CHILDREN FROM PREDATORS? - By Linda J Alexander,
- Teach Children Positive Self-Image Through Fitness - By Lynn Bode
- No Invitation Needed -- Part 3 of 3 Sacred Children Series - By Skye T
- Helping Our Children Feel Good About Themselves - By Dr.Barbara Becker Hol
- Unidentified Stepfamily Zones - Discoveries Made at a Stepfamily Confer
- Divorce and Children: Things To Consider When You`re Staying Married
- Six facts you should know to empower your teaching. - By Emmanuel
- Are You in an Abusive Situation? - by Colin Gabriel Hatcher & Randall
- The Divorce Revolution Has Failed - By J. Bailey Molineux
- Is Your Child Well-Mannered? - By Mary Jesse
- Jesus` Birthday -- Part 2 of 3 Sacred Children Series - By Skye T
- Empty Nesters: What Should You Do Once the Children Leave? - By Mary Guar
- We should celebrate the diversity of children and adults - By Robyn M
- How to Cope with Back to School Stress - By Debbie Mandel
- HIS KIDS: BECOMING A W.O.W. STEPMOTHER - by Julie Donner Andersen
- ADD / ADHD Children : Being Your Child`s Best Friend - By Kate Hufst