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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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