Neuro-biological Basis for
Intervention with Gifted
Children
Lynnette Henderson, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University
Lynnette.Hend...
Some caveats . . .
• People have inherent value unrelated to
the possession of any single descriptor --
including relative...
In this presentation, we will:
• discuss developmental and neurobiological
differences which accompany intelligence
• prop...
Educational Neuroscience Precepts
• Learning experiences shape the development of
the brain from birth through adulthood.
...
Educational Neuroscience Precepts
• Teachers, as primary facilitators of
learning in school age children, are
changing res...
Components
of
Development
Experiences
Environment
Genes
Genes
• Genes code for proteins
• 50,000 genes involved in the nervous system
– Construction
– Maintenance
• From the onse...
Environment
• Determines the extent to which genetic
potential may be reached
– nutrition
– drugs
– viral infection
– toxi...
Experience
• The activity generated in response to environmental
stimuli takes the lead over processes guided solely
by ge...
The Differential
Developmental Course of
Gifted Children
Typical development
Intervention
Gifted development
Disability de...
Earlier developmental
milestones
–smiling
–discrimination of faces/persons
–unusual alertness
–curiosity
–reduced need for...
Earlier developmental milestones
–walking
–interest in books and reading
–use of symbol systems
–interest in abstract issu...
Neurobiological Support for Brain
Development and Maturation
• EEG indications of infant brain development and
maturation ...
Conclusions
• Are differences …
– substrates of the increased intellectual
functioning of individuals?
– reflective of the...
Explanatory Hypotheses
• High levels of myelination
• Lowered threshold for changes in synaptic
strength and for initiatin...
Future Implications
• Matarazzo (1992) has predicted that physiological imaging
measures to assess cognitive function will...
Implications for Educational Policy
• Knowing that the behavioral differences
demonstrated by gifted children are linked t...
Implications for Educational
Practice
• Individualization through continual adaptation
– Acceleration =rapid responsive pa...
Implications for Educational
Practice
• provision of productive stimulating environments
– attention to cultural and socia...
Educational Insights
• "No enriched environment will completely
satisfy any two people for an extended period.
Challenge a...
Conclusions
• Gifted children often appear to have
burning within them a biological drive to
learn, to develop, and to att...
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  1. 1. Neuro-biological Basis for Intervention with Gifted Children Lynnette Henderson, Ph.D. Vanderbilt University Lynnette.Henderson@vanderbilt.edu
  2. 2. Some caveats . . . • People have inherent value unrelated to the possession of any single descriptor -- including relative amounts of intelligence. • Intelligence, particularly as measured by intelligence testing, is NOT synonymous with the better definitions of giftedness.
  3. 3. In this presentation, we will: • discuss developmental and neurobiological differences which accompany intelligence • propose explanatory hypotheses for these differences • discuss the applications of this line of research on the psychology and education of gifted persons.
  4. 4. Educational Neuroscience Precepts • Learning experiences shape the development of the brain from birth through adulthood. • The mature brain after normal development remains susceptible to change from experiences throughout life.
  5. 5. Educational Neuroscience Precepts • Teachers, as primary facilitators of learning in school age children, are changing responses, shaping behaviors, refining schemata, and remodeling brain circuitry in their students.
  6. 6. Components of Development Experiences Environment Genes
  7. 7. Genes • Genes code for proteins • 50,000 genes involved in the nervous system – Construction – Maintenance • From the onset of circuit formation, genetic programming – is inextricably linked with the environmental stimulation one receives – produces a unique brain that reflects those experiences • Genetic links to intelligence: – Galton (1896) – Niesser, et al. (1996) – Plomin (1994)
  8. 8. Environment • Determines the extent to which genetic potential may be reached – nutrition – drugs – viral infection – toxins – temperature low high
  9. 9. Experience • The activity generated in response to environmental stimuli takes the lead over processes guided solely by genes around the time of birth. • Cortical Plasticity – Sets the stage – Preventative – Restorative
  10. 10. The Differential Developmental Course of Gifted Children Typical development Intervention Gifted development Disability development
  11. 11. Earlier developmental milestones –smiling –discrimination of faces/persons –unusual alertness –curiosity –reduced need for sleep –talking –telescoped language development
  12. 12. Earlier developmental milestones –walking –interest in books and reading –use of symbol systems –interest in abstract issues –passage through theoretical developmental stages(e.g. Piaget)
  13. 13. Neurobiological Support for Brain Development and Maturation • EEG indications of infant brain development and maturation have been linked with performance on Piagetian tasks • linked with performance in EEG studies of developmental/motor tasks as well • changes in EEG accompany maturational changes in behavior and both of these are accelerated in children with higher intelligence • Brain activity was more like mental peers than that of chronological peers
  14. 14. Conclusions • Are differences … – substrates of the increased intellectual functioning of individuals? – reflective of the experiences and levels of use? • Either way, group differences are measurable and the differences are indicative of the developmental history of each individual in the sample.
  15. 15. Explanatory Hypotheses • High levels of myelination • Lowered threshold for changes in synaptic strength and for initiating protein synthesis • Heightened levels of arousal – Sensory awareness – Neurochemical systems
  16. 16. Future Implications • Matarazzo (1992) has predicted that physiological imaging measures to assess cognitive function will become common place in the 21st century. • The Report of a Task Force Established by the American Psychological Association agrees that relating aspects of test performance to specific brain characteristics and function may soon be possible (Neisser et al., 1996). – Molfese and Molfese (1997) – Richards, Parmelee, and Beckwith (1986)
  17. 17. Implications for Educational Policy • Knowing that the behavioral differences demonstrated by gifted children are linked to real differences in brain form and function may make recognizing and meeting their needs more acceptable, reasonable and less value-laden.
  18. 18. Implications for Educational Practice • Individualization through continual adaptation – Acceleration =rapid responsive pacing – Learning style of the student – Highly individualized reading – Independent study under competent supervision
  19. 19. Implications for Educational Practice • provision of productive stimulating environments – attention to cultural and social differences – attention to the affective as well as cognitive development of the individual – investigation of real problems and solutions – shared constructions of learning as gifted children teach other gifted children – Leads to faster processing speed Duan, Jiannong & Zhou (2010) http://pty.vanderbilt.edu/cms/wp- content/uploads/StambaughTAGLecturePrograms.pdf
  20. 20. Educational Insights • "No enriched environment will completely satisfy any two people for an extended period. Challenge and interactivity are essential." • Abbott, 1997 • In planning for the appropriate educational program the individual's needs and interests must be considered, and self-constructed learning opportunities must be included for the building of neural frameworks is an intensely personal and individual process.
  21. 21. Conclusions • Gifted children often appear to have burning within them a biological drive to learn, to develop, and to attain their potential. • Because of the unique developmental course of gifted children, they are more at risk for having their needs deferred, under- served, or ignored.

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