Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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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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