Neuroscience of Giftedness: Physiology of the Brain

by Sharon Duncan, Corin Goodwin, Joanna Haase, Ph.D, MFT, and Sarah Wilson
A collaboration of GHF: Gifted Homeschoolers Forum and GRO: Gifted Research and Outreach

Confusion abounds over the many connotations of the term “gifted.” Is it an educational label? A psychological label? Does it have a neurological basis? In fact, each of those areas of study encompass distinct paradigms and implications for the definition of this single word.

The world of education often uses labels to qualify for services that will allow the individual child to perform adequately in the classroom. This practical approach to giftedness in the typical school setting addresses perceived needs and supports the child in fitting into that particular environment.

In psychology, because giftedness isn’t included in the DSM V, it is often overlooked as an area of potential exploration, overshadowed by the focus on pathologies. While giftedness has become increasingly acknowledged in the field of psychology, identification relies largely on checklists and a variety of assessment tools, which are continually revised to reflect the most current understanding of gifted characteristics. Instead, the identification of giftedness should be based on a combination of observation, performance, and assessment tools. The many crossovers between giftedness as it is understood behaviorally, and other diagnoses often leads to mislabeling and under-identification.

One way in which we may be able to find clarity across disciplines is in the examination of how the physiology of a gifted brain differs from a “neurotypical” brain. As our ability to observe brain function directly through imaging or other methods increases, the more we learn about what giftedness looks like at its root. This leads to the question: Are there common neurological features which lead to behaviors (psychology/psychiatry) that are addressed in the educational realm?

Existing literature suggests that, indeed, the gifted brain is different than a neurotypical brain, and we will address these differences and their potential implications in a series of short articles.

Neuroscience of Giftedness: Physiology of the Brain

Larger Regional Brain Volume

Greater Connectivity Across Brain Regions

Increased Brain Activation

Greater Sensory Sensitivity

Increased Brain Areas Associated with Emotional Processing

Gifted Research and Outreach (GRO) is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to promote a comprehensive and accurate understanding of giftedness through research and outreach. GRO is committed to researching the physiology of giftedness; educating medical, psychological, and teaching professionals about the physical and psychological impacts of giftedness; and cultivating a national outreach campaign to correct myths and inspire social change, so that the needs of gifted individuals may be openly discussed.

GHF envisions a world where all children are understood and supported in their strengths and challenges, and families are respected in their educational approaches. GHF supports, educates and advocates for gifted and twice-exceptional children, their families, and the professionals who serve them, as they pursue alternative, lifelong educational paths.

GRO and GHF have partnered on this project to spread the word about the neuroscience of giftedness to the gifted community, medical and educational professionals, and other service providers. Greater understanding will lead to a better quality of life for our children, their families, and society as a whole.