Mathmatically gifted are ambicortexed!

Interesting hemispheric study of processing differences in gifted children. Click below for the entire article.

Brain’s left and right sides work together better in mathematically
gifted youth

There really may be something different about the brains of
math-heads. Mathematically gifted teens did better than average-ability
teens and college students on tests that required the two halves of the
brain to cooperate, as reported in the April issue of Neuropsychology,
published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Brain’s left and right sides work together better in mathematically
gifted youth
http://www.scienceblog.com/community/modules.php?
name=News&file=article&sid=2602
From the American Psychological Association

There really may be something different about the brains of
math-heads. Mathematically gifted teens did better than average-ability
teens and college students on tests that required the two halves of the
brain to cooperate, as reported in the April issue of Neuropsychology,
published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

In the study, a joint effort of psychologists at the U.S. Army
Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences at Fort
Benning, Ga. and the University of Melbourne, Australia, researchers
studied 60 right-handed males: 18 mathematically gifted (averaging
nearly 14 years in age), 18 of average math ability (averaging just
over 13), and 24 college students (averaging about 20). Math giftedness
seems to favor boys over girls, appearing an estimated six to 13 times
more often. It’s not known why but prenatal exposure to testosterone is
suspected to be one influence due to its selective benefit to the right
half of the brain.

The gifted boys were recruited from a Challenges for Youth-Talented
program at Iowa State University. Whereas the average Scholastic
Aptitude Test (SAT) math score for college-bound high-school seniors is
500 (out of 800), the mathematically gifted boys’ average SAT math
score in middle school was 620.

The boys viewed letter patterns flashed on the left or right sides of
a computer screen, and had to indicate whether two patterns matched or
not ? a simple way of learning how the brain responds to data put
before either the left or right visual field, corresponding to
processing in the right or left brain because the input generally
crosses over to the other side.

The letter patterns were presented in three conditions ? one-sided, to
the right hemisphere (left eye); one-sided, to the left hemisphere
(right eye); or bilaterally (both eyes). There were two types of tasks
— “local,” saying two letters matched or mismatched on the small
letters that went into making big letters (for example, a big T whose
two strokes were made of smaller T’s), and “global,” saying two big
letters matched or mismatched.

For the average teens and college students, the left brain hemisphere
was faster for local matches and the right brain hemisphere was faster
for global matches. This fit prior research, which has indicated that
the left hemisphere is adept at processing visual “parts,” in this case
the letter details, while the right hemisphere is more adept at
analyzing visual “wholes,” in this case the global shapes of the big
letters.

However, the mathematically gifted boys showed no such hemispheric
differences. Those who were precocious in math were equally good at
processing global and local elements with either hemisphere, suggesting
more interactive, cooperative left and right brains.

In addition, whereas average-ability boys and college students were
slower on cooperative trials, which presented letter patterns on both
sides of the screen, the math-gifted showed the opposite pattern. They
were slower on one-sided trials, but when a task “asked” both sides of
the brain to work together, they were considerably faster than the
other boys.

The study supports the growing notion that the mathematically gifted
are better at relaying and integrating information between the cerebral
hemispheres. Says co-author Michael O’Boyle, PhD, “It’s not that you
have a special math module somewhere in your brain, but rather that the
brain’s particular functional organization ? which allows
right-hemisphere contributions to be better integrated into the overall
cognitive/behavioral equation — predisposes it towards the use of
high-level imagery and spatial skills, which in turn just happen to be
very useful when it comes to doing math reasoning.”

The research supports the broader notion that “the functional (though
not necessarily structural) organization of the brain may be an
important contributor to individual differences in cognitive abilities,
talents and, at the very least, information-processing styles,” says
O’Boyle.

He adds, “Various expressions of exceptionality, such as giftedness in
math, music or art, may be the by-product of a brain that has
functionally organized itself in a qualitatively different way than the
usual left/right hemispheric asymmetry.”

At the same time, O’Boyle is not sure whether the findings could apply
to math education in general. “Our work may perhaps have something to
say about the optimal timing of when a particular brain is most ‘ready
to learn’ or acquire a given skill, but I don’t think we can ‘create’ a
math genius without the innate talent already there,” he says.

Finally, given the rising use of testosterone by adult men, O’Boyle
cautions that, “Testosterone taken later in life will not help your
math, as the window of influence on brain development is pretty much
prenatal. It may enhance muscle mass, but it is unlikely to help you
solve calculus problems.”

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