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How Has Neuroscience Changed the Way We View Giftedness?

Neuroscience giftedness

It was evident even before this discussion began that the topic of neuroscience and giftedness could not be covered in a single hour chat. However, it proved to be interesting to at least scratch the surface.

The role of IQ testing in the identification process used by many schools to determine entrance into gifted programs was seen as just a small part of what should be a comprehensive assessment. The nature of IQ test results enhances the need for appropriate challenge in the classroom at the earliest years.

Researchers believe a more nuanced approach to giftedness must go beyond reliance on domain-specific abilities. Mary Cay Ricci, an educational consultant from Maryland, reminded us that it is “important to remember that cognitive assessment only measures developed ability.” However, Margo Flower, an elementary teacher from British Columbia, also pointed out, “IQ testing provides a mindful approach to our interventions [and] without it, potential may not be recognized; [but] squashed, squandered.” According to Corin Goodwin, “IQ testing is problematic because [it’s] so badly misused and results misunderstood.”

When the question concerning how environment influences the development of giftedness was raised, it was quickly noted by many that giftedness and ability were not the same thing;  many participants voiced the belief that giftedness was based on neurology. Also, to simply assert that giftedness is not fixed at birth or any other developmental stage, does not imply that all children are gifted. Environment was seen as an important aspect of nurturing a gifted child across their lifespan beginning in early childhood.

Learning styles were also discussed and comments may be found in the transcript. Educators who felt pressured to try to accommodate many different learning styles, but found it nearly impossible in a diverse ability classroom. What was found effective in supporting learning was presenting information in multiple sensory modes. Also, Corin Goodwin related a concern, “Often, learning styles are confused with mild learning disabilities. For example, I’m not an auditory learner because I’m hearing impaired. [Then] learning disabilities are overlooked.”

Neuroscience has refined our approach to ADHD in individuals with high IQs. ADHD in gifted children should not be written off as boredom. When executive function issues exist, we must deal with them. Neuroscientists reject an ADHD diagnosis based solely on observable behaviors and believe there is a need for further research to track brain functions. Misdiagnosis of ADHD in highly gifted children can be mitigated when the clinical focus is on impairment rather than overexcitability.

Finally, the issue of what educators and policymakers can learn from neuroscience about giftedness was discussed. There is a glaring disconnect between the two fields due in large part to lack of access to scientific research and misinterpretation of the research when it is available. Widespread dissemination of neuromyths at the undergraduate level in education programs exacerbates the problem.

What has been learned and recently understood is that:

  • More intelligent children exhibit earlier acceleration & prolonged time for rapid learning in early adolescence (Shaw 2006, Nature);
  • Motivation and inspiration can propel a person to achieve at higher levels than predicted by standardized tests;
  • Neuroscience of creativity – right/left brain distinction is not the full picture of how creativity is implemented in the brain (Kaufman); and
  • Creatively gifted children and polymaths need to be given freedom to learn their own way – they think differently (Andreasen).

To see more on what was said at this chat, a full transcript may be found on our Storify Page.

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (Kaufman)

Neuroscience and Education: Myths and Messages

Secrets of the Creative Brain (Andreasen)

Grounding Creative Giftedness in the Body

Finding Creative Potential on Intelligence Tests

Intelligence is Differentially Related to Neural Effort in Task-positive/Task-negative Brain Network

The Real Neuroscience of Creativity

Does Early Academic Prowess Predict Later Success?

Models of Working Memory Mechanisms of Active Maintenance & Executive Control

New Directions in Intelligence Research: Avoiding the Mistakes of the Past

Brain Research for Teachers & Other Curious Souls, 2013 update (Sheard)

Intelligent Testing (Kaufman 2009)

Brain-Based Learning, Myth versus Reality: Testing Learning Styles and Dual Coding

4 Common Dyslexia Myths Debunked Using Neuroscience

The Myths of Learning Styles

Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ Are Not ‘Learning Styles’

Cybraryman’s The Brain and Brain Games Page

Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence

Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and Predictors of Misconceptions Among Teachers

Deconstructing the Myth of Learning Styles

Think Your Child is a Visual or Auditory Learner? Think Again. From Duke TIP

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