Superhuman or Normal Variation?

This fascinating infographic highlights a few seemingly superhuman feats of the mind. While we do not disagree that they are amazing, we can’t help but think, “But, of course. With over 7-billion people on our planet, such variation is expected. Spend any time in a classroom and you will see such brains in development!”

Which leaves us wondering two things:

1. How many more savants (defined as “a learned person, esp. a distinguished scientist”) might we have if we all intentionally cultivated students’ strengths?

2. Where are the profiles of women?!

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Infographic source: Smarter.org
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15 Things About the (Human) Brain

As we get excited for Brain Awareness Week next week, we thought it might be fun to take a quick look at our amazing brain.

Below is an info-graphic from onlineschools with 15 facts you may or may not have known. Number 9 is a great reminder for parents, educators, and health conscious people — we think what we eat.

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Fast vs. Slow Thinking — Brain Tricks

Below is a clever and enjoyable video from AsapScience, about how the brain works in relation to systems the author dubs, “Fast Thinking” and “Slow Thinking.” You might think about these as instinctive vs. conscious thought.

As you watch the video and engage in the exercises, you will probably see implications for teaching and learning. We wonder, how often we do plan lessons assuming we’ll engage students’ “slow thinking” brain, but inadvertently engage the “fast thinking” brain? Or when might we fail to consider how one activity may in fact “blind” students to subtle variables that are in fact very important?

Either way, you can learn more about these systems in the book, “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman.

Humor — It’s all in your head

Humor is generally regarded as an important and valuable tool for sustaining engagement with students (in moderation, of course). But what is really going on in the brain when it comes to humor?

In an article in New Scientist magazine, Daniel Elkan writes,

Yet humour is a far more complex process than primeval pleasures like sex or food. In addition to the two core processes of getting the joke and feeling good about it, jokes also activate regions of the frontal and cingulate cortex, which are linked with association formation, learning and decision-making. The team (led by Dean Mobbs of Stanford) also found heightened activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and the frontoinsular cortex – regions that are only present in humans and, in a less developed form, great apes. Indeed, the fact that these regions are involved suggests that humour is an advanced ability which may have only evolved in early humans, says Watson, who conducted the research.

He goes on to write,

More than anything, the recent research confirms the fact that humour, an oft-neglected trait when considering our cognitive skills, requires a tremendous amount of brain power. “Getting a joke would seem – on the surface – to be a very trivial, intuitive process. But brain imaging is showing us that there is more going on than we might think,” says (Andrea) Samson (of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland).

Below is the accompanying graphic for that article, showing the parts of the brain activated when under the influence of humor:

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