Executive Functions and MacArthur “Genius Grants”

The MacArthur Foundation has awarded the 2006 MacArthur “Genius Grants” to 25 individuals for their “their creativity, originality, and potential to be significant contributors in their fields”. We are happy that some friends received the award, and that we will be able to interview them here, in this blog.

How were they able to accomplish such a feat? what kind of brain is helping them? Also, how are their lifelong experiences shaping their brains?

braintop We can not place them all under fMRI examination , so we will have to ask them questions to understand how they deal with, and developed, what neuropsychologists call Executive Functions, which are mostly located in our Frontal Lobes , the most recent part of our brains in evolutionary terms.

We will ask them about some key Frontal Lobe “Mental Muscles”, such as:

Planning: foresight in devising multi-step strategies.

Flexibility: capacity for quickly switching to the appropriate mental mode.

Inhibition: the ability to withstand distraction, and internal urges.

Anticipation: prediction based on pattern recognition.

Critical evaluation: logical analysis.

Working memory: capacity to hold and manipulate information “on-line” in our minds in real time.

Fuzzy logic: capacity to choose with incomplete information.

Divided attention: ability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time.

Decision-making: both quality and speed.

A highly recommended book, if you are interested in learning more about Executive Functions and Frontal Lobes, is The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind , by Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg. You can read an in-depth review here.

If you had some of the MacArthur Fellows in front of you, right now, what would you ask them?

Advertisements

4 Comments »

  1. […] Using your brain to solve creative challenges is excellent practice and will help slow down the effects of aging. The limitation with your current brain workout program is that it does not have enough variety or novelty to work out all your mental muscles. Have you ever seen the guys in the gym with the buff upper bodies supported by little chicken legs? The same thing can happen in your brain. Just as you crosstrain in your physical fitness routine (mixing cardio with strength training and flexibility) to get a balanced workout, you need to crosstrain your mental fitness to exercise your brain through motor coordination, emotional understanding, memory, focus and attention, sensory communication, language skills, and mental visualization. […]

  2. […] Social intelligence is one of the eight multiple intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner. It involves the interpersonal skills involved in creating and maintaining social relationships with other people. In highly interconnected, complex societies, these skills become quite important for survival and success. Social and executive level skills like personality, motivation, the ability to plan and follow a process with several steps, the ability to organize actions over time, social graces, and the ability to behave appropriately for the social situation reside in the frontal lobes of your brain – the last part of the human brain to evolve, and the part of the brain that makes humans human. Damage to the frontotemporal area can cause social skills to suffer, even if other aptitudes improve with diminished high level control. […]

  3. […] Social and executive level skills like personality, motivation, the ability to plan and follow a process with several steps, the ability to organize actions over time, social graces, and the ability to behave appropriately for the social situation reside in the frontal lobes of your brain – the last part of the human brain to evolve, and the part of the brain that makes humans so uniquely human. Damage to the frontotemporal area can cause these social skills to suffer, even if other aptitudes improve with diminished high level control. […]

  4. […] Using your brain to solve creative challenges is excellent practice and will help slow down the effects of aging. The limitation with your current brain workout program is that it does not have enough variety or novelty to work out all your mental muscles. Have you ever seen the guys in the gym with the buff upper bodies supported by little chicken legs? The same thing can happen in your brain. Just as you crosstrain in your physical fitness routine (mixing cardio with strength training and flexibility) to get a balanced workout, you need to crosstrain your mental fitness to exercise your brain through motor coordination, emotional understanding, memory, focus and attention, sensory communication, language skills, and mental visualization. […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: