Friday, March 31, 2006

The Biology of Late Bloomers - Gifted, but Immature?


This may not come as a complete surprise to some parents of gifted children. In a press release that is now racing around the Internet, NIMH researchers show us that the higher one's I.Q., the more immature prefrontal cortex development...at least age 7. Aha.

Excerpt from press release: "the cortex in kids with the highest IQs — 121 to 149 — didn't reach maximum thickness until age 11. Children who were just slightly less bright reached that point at age 9, and those with average intelligence at around 6."

At the Washington Post, the graphic of brain development differences can be roughly summarized like this:



Lower at age 7, rapidly accelerating heading toward age 11, and then slower pruning into adulthood.

Any reader of gifted biographies will also not be entirely surprised. More often than not, brilliant adults were irascible, impulsive, disorganized, awkward, and immature as young children. Remember Winston Churchill's recollection? "My teachers saw me at once backward and precocious..."

The results also raise practical points for parents and professionals regarding misdiagnosis and dual diagnosis with ADD or ADHD. Age 7 is a vulnerable time when children are just learning to submit to the routine for formal school, and parents are earnestly hoping for the best. When you combine immaturity with energy, the checklist might really accrue, but is it really a disease?...like diabetes? Pressure to medically "normalize" the curve at age 7 for our brightest children could potentially be tinkering with the natural course of high IQ brain development.

BTW, the original article is not free access yet, so only news articles and the supplementary info available too look at now. Have a great weekend.

news @ nature.com - IQ scores & brain structure
FOXNews.com - Smarter Kids, More Immature Brains
Nature Supplementary Info, Figure
Washington Post: Brain Development and IQ
Flashes from the Past Index / Eide Neurolearning Blog
SENG Articles: Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted

4 comments:

  1. Interesting.

    One thought that has come up in my class on creativity is that lack of social awareness can help develop expertise. Because one is less able to tell what is "normal," one spends less time developing "well rounded" interests and more on special traits (in the case of IQ, verbal and logical reasoning).

    Of course, as IQ is highly heritable there's doubtless more to it than that.

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  2. Interesting.

    One thought that has come up in my class on creativity is that lack of social awareness can help develop expertise. Because one is less able to tell what is "normal," one spends less time developing "well rounded" interests and more on special traits (in the case of IQ, verbal and logical reasoning).

    Of course, as IQ is highly heritable there's doubtless more to it than that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi there, dan.

    Some studies suggest that the higher the IQ, the higher the introversion and also the higher the uneveness in abilities, both of which can grow expertise.

    Maybe what you're talking about is the "valedictorian curse"?

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  4. I told my kids "A horse stands much sooner than a human - only primary teachers classify kids by how quickly they learned to read". My boys weren't readers until their 20s. Because everything is difficult for a dyslexic to read, my sons read the best of the best - the content has to be worth the effort.

    ReplyDelete