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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?

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness, Peak Performance, Professional Development

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