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Friday, February 10, 2017


I found the most interesting article on prodigies this month, thanks to the Brain Cafe on Facebook. Here's the link:
 The Link Between Complicated Pregnancies and Child Prodigies.
In these days of fake news, I think Nautilus stands as one source of information we can count on. In this article, the author is well-qualified to describe research about savants. Savants are people who have an incredible talent or skill beyond what is normally expected. This article give three examples: a child who begins playing cello at three and has composed five symphonies by age five, a man who sculpts wild animals out of clay or wax, and a man who sees in fractals (1). Each of these individuals shows an ability beyond that of the average person in a very specialized skill. Scientists have now linked that ability to a different formation of the left side of the brain.
Research has found that such exceptional talent is  tied to three things: memory, recognition of patterns and sequences, and attention to detail. (2)
Theorists believe that the left side of the brain is disrupted, causing compensatory skills to develop. These skills allow the individual to access areas of the brain that lead to faster processing, without executive functioning (3). Thus, even accidents which damage the brain can lead to surprising results. In addition, since the left side of the brain forms later in pregnancy, it is more prone to damage in difficult pregnancies. Prenatal problems occur at a much higher rate in prodigies and individuals with autism. Incidents that shock the mother and cause distress in the fetus may change the development. Yet these individuals can show a fine sensitivity to others.

Having worked with exceptional learners during my career, I am still surprised. One of my students, aged 5, loved to draw trains. He would draw the cars and put the numbers and writing on them. His parents later told me they were actual trains he had seen. Another preschool student who seemed to be lost in sensory-stimulating activities suddenly reached over and pulled a single strand of blonde hair from my shoulder. In high school, my students with autism learned to read by memorizing words. Another learned to alter the program on his iPad to say, "I love Scooby-Doo." I sincerely hope we are on the cusp of a new stage of learning about the brain, so that all children will be happy, self-supporting and able to achieve their dreams.

(1) a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation. Googe definition.
(2) Jawer, Michael, Nautilis, Jan. 11, 2017, Issue 44, Luck
(3)Living With Geniuses,