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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Understanding the brain differences for the education of talent

It´s a fact that education, of any nation, benefits in short, medium and long term social, cultural and health services, which is why there is no doubt that education is the future, that is why Governments seek that education systems have the level of development that achieves that students get the best scores, although it should be to examine whether this is achieved to ensure the usefulness of what is learned.

I mention this, because schools seek students with better qualifications and usually those who are not at least two points above the average, simply does not deserve much attention, although a common thought is about those who achieve excellence, though desirable, do not require much support. But these excellent children, the dream of every parent, the goal of every educational system and of course, the target of investments are for those whose value is its weight in gold, talented, gifted, but nations have failed to find a system 100% reliable, allowing the student to find that path of perfection and those who have the gift, remain at school, despite the fact that regardless of the label that psychologist give them all they are children and have the right of education.

However, speaking of the talent or gifted children, even when all family would like for their children to have some talent or being a genius, it should be mentioned that they aren't as most of people  paints, because while its characteristics makes them pass to the right side of the normal curve,  this puts them in the category of special education, and depending on their capabilities will be more or less difficult the adaptation to the environment (Marland, 1972; Fenstermacher & Richardson, 2005).

At this sense, some are more adapted to retain information, like the case of children diagnosed as Savant, which is a syndrome part of the autistic spectrum, some of them can retain large amounts of information, such as dates, numbers or songs (Winner, 1998), and they have also skills to perform multiple tasks. An example is when one of these children go the Museum and is able to reproduce in detail the entire route, including the comments that he or she made or heard, the colors that each object including details that only a few expertise can discover.

Talented children also have lots of interests, but like many children, this month they can enjoy the dinosaurs and next submarines, but they keep the knowledge by each one of the themes that they like.

It is worth mentioning that they have the tendency to read and write at ages prior to the rule without formal education, but parents or mentors will have to take care of the taste for these skill, which is partly determined by his extraordinary fluency in vocabulary, they are more advanced to the stage of development are, making complex phrases before the year and a half or displaying words listened to only once with a perfect knowledge of the context showing in some cases management of complex concepts even for adults, putting in check to parents who may not be at the height of the cognitive needs of children (Benito, 1990).

Are also artistically talented, they show an unusual appreciation for the arts in general, particularly stand out in singing, because they are perfectly chanted, or in the drawing, with traits of great maturity, they can also show high aptitude for photography or theater, making things seem easy or natural (De Bono, 1988; Genovard and Castelló, 1990; De Bono, 1992).

Due to their interests or their particular artistic talent show periods of great concentration, which in some cases can be maintained for long periods of time and perhaps that is why they also demonstrate an extraordinary memory, although this may be selective, because they will focus on very specific details, contexts beyond the adult eye.

But to reviewing all their enviable and extraordinary qualities, it’s necessary to talk about their constants to the doctor thanks a poor handling of the tension and is that they are too auto critics, focused on the perfection of execution, rather than enjoy the same. This puts them in a place that few parents really want (Lohman, 2000; Lohman, Korb and Lakin, 2008).

This group of the population is generally classified as:

-Genius persons that break all the rules, they are extremely intelligent, creative and productive, and often achieve high academic levels; however this is not a cause of genius, because it is an achievement of adulthood who requires maturity and experience (Solomon, 2007).

- Precocity as well can be a symptom of high capacity, but not necessarily, although is associated with extreme capacity. In this case requires much environmental support to maintain capabilities.

-Prodigy, is characterized as children who manage executions with the quality of a competent adult in a field identified prior 10 years old or less.

-Gifted / talented in this area may be conceptual differences between authors because some say that the gifted refers to large areas with a complex cognitive structure, while the talent refers to a professional field more particular culturally, but these differences are not necessarily different in reality (Benito, 1990; Derryberry and Barger, 2008; Lohman, Korb and Lakin, 2008; Willard - Holt, 2008).

All these features are a good target to private institutions, particularly in the United States who have made fortunes promising parents find the talent of their children, however, time and a bit of motivation made realize that talent poorly directed only leads to personal disaster.

And the myth that talented or gifted children are easy to educate persists despite the fact that the evidence shows otherwise. Researchers as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago have shown that  children with exceptionally high abilities in any area, not only academic but artistic or athletic, are one step back than their peers socially, for they show a clear trend to be targeted, with independent and introverted thinking, what makes them spend alone for a long time, and although deeply enjoy the moments alone also report feelings of loneliness and between the degree of above higher staffing, farthest feel of the rest of the people, which can push them to depression (Winner, 1998)

For this reason it’s value to wonder whether it’s worth investing in them being on the one hand a very small percentage of the population, I don’t mean they don’t deserve it but I wonder, what can education  give them if they are the best of the best?, does the goal is to make them smarter or more talented?. Well, if thereby we them more antisocial I think that the price is high.

The other idea that seems a little more profitable is the fact that talented and gifted children can  help us with the other side of the normal curve, we can learn from them, so that their talent is not wasted or they are lost in the difficulties that come with the package that genetic and environmentally them has been bestowed, because if we can understand how they learn, we realize that there is only some aspects that mixed, and how is possible to be at one side or the other of the normal curve.

Being critical, from a cognitive point of view, the talent or the gifted child not make much difference except conceptual and by its position in the normal learning curve, because first of all of them are children, the only thing that sets apart them is that they learn more quickly that their colleagues, for this reason, have studied their capacities and differences, but the goal with all children is not only making exceptional adult but happy children (Benito, 1994; Joftus and Maddox-Dolan, 2002).

Are they really different?

How did began to emerge these distinctions related intelligence?, well, the man has been implementing mechanisms for assessing the mental capacity of the members of a society, primarily to respond to particular needs and under the assumption that the fittest are most able to survive; so traditionally the assessment of this capacity has been linked with notions of intelligence, which as a concept, is a difficult precision term although he has been serving as base for the design procedures that have dealt with measure it, explain it and understand it, although rarely exploit it (Fuentes Muñoz, 1999).

What has been understood this measurement is that intelligence is defined as the capacity to adapt to the environment (Dzib Goodin, 2012) and that this can be modified if environmental conditions are altered. Even though the intelligence based on the genetic seems indisputable, it depends on effective updating of the activity of the subject in their environment (Fuentes Muñoz, 1999).

These measurements made  separation of population on the basis of intellectual qualities, that’s the reason that authors like  Feldhusen (cited in Fenstermacher & Richardson, 2005) make a distinction between gifted and talent, and defines giftedness as brainpower general and uniform underlying, while that the talent draws it as a superior performance or fitness specializing in certain areas here, coincides with authors such as Genovard (1990) and Genovard and Castello (1990) in children with talent are those that possess a high capacity, ability or potential in any important area of human activity, evaluated through assessment scales, observations of behavior or scores of past activities of learning performance and compared with that obtained a group of fellow reference.

Other authors such as Gagné (cited in Parra, Ferrando, Prieto and Sanchez, 2005), add an association between the natural gift of (gifted) with human capabilities not systematically developed and talent with skills or skills developed systematically; and in this sense Renzulli (1996) adds that the outstanding is an interaction among three basic clusters of human traits that can be described as: general skills above the average, high levels of commitment to the tasks and high levels of creativity.

However, contrary to popular belief, creativity does not correlate with IQ or academic performance, as various research have shown, and in this context either has relationship between the age or gender and personal perception of creativity (Howley, Pendarvis and Howley, 1990; Rogers, 2006). In this sense, can also be said that creativity is not correlated with academic performance and in many cases the Faculty perceives as most creative students with lower school performance (Sternberg, 1985; Valadez Sierra, Betancourt Morejón and Zavala Berbena, 2006).

In addition, in what regards about gifted children's creativity, these are not perceived as particularly creative children, because they are within normal ranges, contrary to the talented children or with normal intellectual ranges and then the diagnosis of gifted seems to be tied to the IQ that the other two aspects covering the triple ring of Renzulli, as they are the general skills, creativity and persistence to the task (Sternberg and Davidson, 1990; Prado Suarez, 2006).

When researchers do an analysis between the parents, the population of mothers is to perceive as less creative on gifted children and the perception of the creativity of participants is almost similar to auto creativity perceived by children about gifted (Prado Suarez, 2006). In this regard, it is worth in-depth analysis of its features.

And it is possible to find extreme cases among gifted children which coexist with a verbal deficit and these are the so-called autistic Savant, and they can be characterized as wise men even though they show a deep cognitive delay (some with an IQ between 40 and 70). These wise men generally possess a skill at a normal level, in contrast to several limitations. But Savant are rarer (less than 100 are the ones that are known) who have one or more skills to a level of prodigy (Heaton and Wallace, 2004).

These wise children tend to excel in the visual arts and music, or mathematical calculation and its sphere of competence, resemble the prodigies, showing early skills, with an independent learning and an imperative to dominate. In addition, Savant often exceeds gifted children in the accuracy of their memories. One of the most promising biological explanations for this syndrome raises the atypical brain organization, with a deficit in the left hemisphere of the brain (which controls the language generally), offset by the strong points in the right hemisphere (which controls the spatial and visual skills) (Winner, 1998).

And thanks the work carried out by different specialists dedicated to the study of the gifted and the talent children that we can summarize that the main characteristics of these persons are basically focused on cognitive aspects; adaptation and social integration; emotional aspects; communicative aspects - linguistic and aspects related to creativity, and although none of these aspects can forget the children who are on the other side of the normal curve of development, these children are most obvious when talking about cognitive aspects, they are characterized by a high capacity of convergent thinking, thinking of logical, relations cause effect, etc., as well as a great memory to all kinds of data.

They also demonstrate greater abstraction, vision moral reasoning, and generalization that which correspond to their age and their great curiosity allows them to learn faster (Derryberry and Barger, 2008).

Of course, cannot be left aside their originality in questions and answers which are also well founded, that is due to a high capacity of observation and relation between elements and a preference for complex tasks involving a high concentration, perhaps for this reason quickly learn abstract concepts, being able to apply them in a practical way, that gives them a great intrinsic motivation, which can produce them boredom according to the dynamics of class, because due to its high capacity to process information, they are predisposed for accelerated learning (Hilliard, 1976; Bonus, 1988; Genovard and Castelló, 1990; Bonus, 1992; Lohman, 2000; Derryberry and Barger, 2008; Willard - Holt, 2008).

With regard to the characteristics about language and communication, we can say the most notable feature is having a vast and complex vocabulary and parents tend to feel surprised about how quickly they learn to read; also express their ideas clearly and this leads them to his dialogue is fluid and fast with great understanding, but some authors mention that they have a tendency to prefer oral language to written as a means of expression (Torrance, 1977; Sternberg, 1985; VanTassel - Baska, Xuemei Feng, Brown, Bracken, Stambaugh, French, McGowan, Worley, Quek and Bai, 2008).

In general show pictorial skills and/or sensitivity for music, they also have a tendency to look for new alternatives, what takes them to an unusual facility to manipulate ideas or objects and obtain new combinations, primarily that they prefer the complex tasks to the simple and they are particularly capable of generating solutions of different or multiple ways of solving a same problem (Genovard)1990; Genovard and Castello, 1990) and highlighted this point in particular that formal schooling, prevents them from this development and in part that is causing great frustration.

So far, those enviable aspects in children that every parent wants to have mentioned, however the combination of these strengths with weaknesses affect someone that even though a person with high capacities, may fail at school or socially, and hence derived their special educational needs, therefore when analyses aspects of adaptation and social integration talented children in general have much more success, to secure a good acceptance and social prestige than gifted envelope or geniuses, even as well, all tend to be independent, particularly in the area of domain (Alonso, 1991; Bonus, 1992; Derryberry and Barger, 2008), therefore never cease to call for help on those tasks that are problematic or cease to try what they perceive as difficult. Its high capacity leads them to be critical of established standards and the most hard to adapt is their superior ability to self-criticism, causing them great anxiety and multiple health problems (Garet, Porter, Desimone, Terremotos and Yoon, 2001; Manaut-Gil, Vaquero-Casares, Quintero-Gallego, Pérez Santamaría and Gómez-González 2004).

But it is impossible to forget that human beings consists not only of capabilities but that affective and emotional aspects, as well as the innate temperament, play a decisive role in the personal growth and the progressive acquisition of a certain balance and well-being with oneself. And this is where, with high capacities children live a situation of gap between their intellectual capacity and these other emotional capabilities that help the adaptation to the environment in which they operate.

And it is then that lethal combination between high intellectual abilities and school adaptation difficulties, causing the paradox of the failure in learning. To this must be added that an educator is quite a challenge to find before a student with above-average intelligence, to which seems to keep him short learning program designed for their age. On the other hand sometimes their mental agility and its initiative to make a child uncomfortable if question the professor regarding his or her method of teaching (Rogers, 2006). And it is in regards to the emotional aspects tend to show a high level of self-esteem and self-confidence in their abilities and qualities, which makes them very sensitive and can produce them emotional instability, being a problem for adults because sometimes they behave defensively, in part because of that do not require social reinforcements in his work (Torrance 1977; Cross, Cassady, Dixon, Adams, 2008).

In a study presented by Cross, Cassady, Dixon, Adams (2008) show a conclusion widely replicated, that talented children and adolescents have psychological disorders, but also should be noted that with the necessary support and instruction in standard environments, they can achieve overcome these difficulties (VanTassel-Baska, Xuemei Feng, Brown, Bracken, Stambaugh, French, McGowan, Worley, Quek and Bai, 2008).

However the adjustments in the classroom requires a positive reinforcement in key areas, where the student is not so expert, as well as teamwork, but necessarily be given as part of a special education (Garet, Porter, Desimone, Terremotos, & Yoon, 2001; Valadez Sierra, Betancourt Morejon and Zavala Berbena, 2006).

And it is that to overcome school difficulties and reach the expertise and adult maturity, it is necessary to recognize the professional identity emerges in the meeting point of individual history, on one side, and the conventions of one specific domain, on the other. However, these two variables do not exist in equal measure both elements, and in the case of children talent starts from the premise that the domain is sufficient (Pendarvis, Howley & Howley, 1990; Solomon, 2007) which can lead to the failure not only school but professional. Although there is a purely social aspect to consider, is the fact that there are still fields of work dominated by a genre or another, with the result that women with high intellectual level have major problems of professional insertion than males (Willard-Holt, 2008).

What do make them different?

Basically the capacities are activated or deactivated depending on their position in the brain. We must remember that the brain has a finite space where expand its size, that’s why is folded to create more space than the skull (Dzib Goodin, 2012; Fox, 2011) so when a brain area develops more than others, thus in one way or another, makes them less potential press. Even when there is no neurogenesis except in the hippocampus and the olfactory bulb (Alvarez - Buylla and Garcia-Verdugo, 2002), brain connections will make space within the brain, so those functions to be developed more, will compete under the law of the strongest, those connections that do not survive the pressure, will be weak and will eventually disappear to make way for the ones used most frequently (Tubino, 2004).

It seems then that to understand the differences between one and the other side of the curve, you must think about functions that feature are the subjects that represent. So children with severe mental retardation will have highly developed limbic (emotional) structures and are so large you are pressuring the cognitive areas that are represented in the neo cortex. This same difference is seen in the children in one or another side of the autistic spectrum, because while the girl with fragile X syndrome can be very violent emotionally, either the Savant can have incredibly developed a skill, children who have Asperger's syndrome are better adapted, except that mirror neurons practically do not exist or are not functional (Hardan, Minshew, Mallikarnjuhn, and Keshavan, 2001; Herbert, 2005; Tirapu-Ustarroz, Moon-Lario, Hernandez-Goñi, Garcia-Suescun, 2011).

The importance of white matter has been then linked with cognitive processes, as evidenced by a study published by Roberts, Anderson and Husain (2010) in the Journal of Neuroscience magazine compared the cognitive performance of 11 pilots of combat with a group control of a similar IQ, no previous experience in the piloting of aircraft. All participants completed two tasks of cognitive control to investigate the rapid decision-making. In addition, a brain magnetic resonance image, examined the structure of connections of the white matter between brain regions associated with cognitive control.

The findings indicate that fighter pilots have higher cognitive control, showing an accuracy significantly higher in one of the cognitive tasks, despite being more sensitive to irrelevant information of distraction and magnetic resonance imaging revealed differences between the pilots and the participants that both as controls in the microstructure of white matter in the right hemisphere of the brain.

However there is a difference between the white matter and grey, grey matter is where the mental calculation is carried out and the memories are stored and basically consists of cell bodies, but below this is the cornerstone of brain processing which fills half of the human brain is composed of millions of axons that work by way of cables or bridges of communication and which is covered by the myelin sheath, controlling the flow of information between nerve cells and can connect the nervous system (Fields, 2008) extensive and remote regions.

Traditionally, the white substance has been associated with the speed of processing and connectivity, understood as the ability to connect different regions of the brain in an effective manner (Roberts, Anderson, Husain, 2010). However, in recent years, it has been emerging a body of solid knowledge that attempts to link the white substance with different cognitive processes, establishing certain neuropsychological disorders are the result of the profound effect that the white matter disorders can have on cognition and emotion, as in the case of mental retardation or Savant syndrome.

But regardless of the effects of the white matter disorders share directly the notion of distributed neural networks. These networks, consist of dispersed sets of neurons dedicated to functions specific neuro behavioural and have linked them to the higher functions in general, e.g. the language, which is a complex function that results from the coordinated activity of large neural networks distributed throughout the cortex and subcortical areas (Moon-Lario, García-Suescun Hernáez-Goñi Tirapu Ustárroz 2011).

In addition, it has been found that children with attention deficit disorder, presented a reduction of left hemispheric asymmetry and the size of the prefrontal regions of the right hemisphere (Kennedy, 1999), and changes in white matter that could relate to the attention processes, have shown so there is speculation that a smaller volume of the right frontal white matter is correlated with an alteration of the sustained in children with disorder deficit attention care. On the other hand, in autism, it has been noted an increase in the volume of the hemispheric white matter in all brain lobes. In addition the white substance was related to episodic memory, processing speed and executive function (Miranda-Casas, Fernández, Robledo and García-Castellar, 2010; Roberts, Anderson and Husain, 2010).

Then the development of this substance is important, because between more cerebral bodies, as many brain connections and thus, seems that the formula to generate the talent is there, however, will have to consider other aspects before thinking that it is possible to modulate the talent, the question now is how can the white substance be developed?, the answer lies in the environment.

Learning: genetics, motivation, and environmental development

Certainly the growth and neuronal connection starts a few weeks of conception (Springer and Deutsch, 1981;  Tubino, 2004; Fields, 2008), more modulated by genetics that the atmosphere at that point, the struggle for the connection it makes its presence, however, it will depend on the care maternal to enable the brain training to face the first great risk that are the moments leading up to childbirth and later, such as training, free of faults or genetic translocations and adequate structures development, while it is true that many of the disorders of development appear to be associated with perinatal difficulties, such as premature birth, delayed intrauterine growth and perinatal Hypoxia (Manaut-Gil, Vaquero-Casares, Quintero-Gallego, Pérez Santamaría and Gómez-González,2004).

Once a baby is born, the brain does not have the opportunity to know that functions will be necessary, and with the exception of those that are evolutionarily programmed (reflexes) the other dependent activation made by the environment, starting from the idea that those who use more will become stronger and thus arguably better adapted (Zehhausern, 1982).

But in this struggle there are several skills that can be deployed by the newborn, particularly those that are executed more frequently, which will eventually lead him to the precision, those that are more allowed and also enjoy (Alonso, 1992). Something to recognize in children talent is that they enjoy much once they recognize their abilities because they know they are good they have made not once or twice, but thousands, starting from very young, that has enabled them to greater and stronger neural connections with this greater white substance nuclei. While you can try something new, dare to move their cognitive comfort zone - motor if and only if this causes them pleasure. The same pleasure that a newborn feels when trying to catch a distant object, so it does and then will seek almost in a natural way to achieve the same feat with another pattern of movements (Sternberg and Davidson, 1990; Dzib Goodin, 2012).

In an evolutionary sense, it is not surprising that more developed capacities on gifted and talented children are those related skills genetically predetermined, which have to do with numbers, the language, and the arts. For example the quantification of the elements that form part of our environment is a basic capacity not only of the human being, but also of other animal species, which helps the body adapt to their environment. Several studies suggest that this numerical sense is innate, both in humans and other animal species, but for the human being, this numerical sense is the basis on which to build a more complex, dependent schooling numerical ability (Serra-Grabulosa, Perez-Pamies, Lachica, Membrives, 2010).

On the other hand, the language is more dependent on the aspects evolutionary genetic that writing or reading, requiring instruction or scaffolding (Alonso, 1992b; Benitez Burraco, 2006).

In this sense, it seems possible to think that those areas who admire, are those that are regulated by genetics, and do not require much instruction, including the movement, because the talent require professional support to achieve a technique neat, although it is true that require less repetitions to achieve perfection, will be the environment that determines the course of action. The example that I like is that perhaps we are all excellent pianists but if we have never had a piano before us and the opportunity to beat him a little, we will lose these brain connections that were willing to bloom.

Thus, while the study of the processes of learning and teaching does not consider the multiple dimensions and contributions from neuroscience, will be contributing to a restricted view of such complexity, to analyze associations between complex as learning and neural activation processes, it is necessary to evaluate critically how brain areas have varying degrees of activation. Examples in the educational field are investigations that demonstrate neural changes as a result of learning processes (Benaros, Lipina, Segretin, Hermida, Colombo, 2010).

How to address the talent?

My proposal is that if it is possible to understand that she kids do what they enjoy and avoid anything that makes them feel bad, is unable to activate the talent in children. Under the note that among more repetitions, stronger neural connections and between more pleasure to cause a task, greater chance of repetition, then will have to work with the mechanisms that lead to the talented and gifted to the enjoyment of their areas in which is good and share them with others.

This convinced that education is not a matter of money, because children with strong cultural deprivation indices can be found an indescribable pleasure to hitting a ball or draw on paper napkins, the same as a child with better resources can be the best, reaching levels in an electronic game. The problem of education is that you have forgotten that and has focused on teaching what is important, from an adult perspective, and on the other hand, does not give the opportunity of repeating tasks beyond a couple of times, so such that the learner cannot be achieved perfection.

If also eliminates the barrier of I do this perfect and you can't, avoidance of competences, under the idea that every brain is different and thus has different capabilities. And it is good to be so, because there is someone who can understand the mechanism for a car work or that distinguishes between good melons and those who have no taste. Take advantage of individual differences has much more value to educational level and nation, rather than whether a country is more apt to write. Talent must and can be exploited, not only marked.

We know that this segment of the population likes to find multiple ways to explain or solve problems, and you like the challenges, then in a class group enable them be leaders because it is something that comes with your natural team and let us to explain things to other children, and as the others manage to understand them, that feel them are able to, must pull the zone of proximal development of all, against the notion that putting them with less able children overwhelm its capacities. But they are already there, and they will enjoy using them.

If we see the talent as do enterprises, greater capital is in his talent, but not only that, these talents to work and make everyone, without discrimination, achieve goals increasingly older, where all these are important, from which clean bathrooms, who is the best sweeping, who heads up the projects, the society be nurtured more, and instead of seeing differences between a 100 and 20 or between a rich and a poor, we would see and accept that there are things for which it is not suitable, because there is no genius to do everything perfect and know everything, right?

In this sense education should focus on educating is not simple and recognize skills and ensure that these are shared, educate you a genius of computing as Bill Gates?, the ability to give and the ability to see the others. We should remember that among more minor talent capacity guarantee not we depart them, not make them feel special, all children are special, everyone has the right to education, all have different capabilities, enable them to share them, and society will be a better place to live.

Alma Dzib Goodin

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  1. It's a long article but brilliant!.
    How can we contact you for a conference? are you speaker?

    1. Yes, I am speaker. I talk personally or I have many conferences online. You only need to send me an email:) Easy!