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  • March 01, 2013 4:36 PM | Deleted user

    I think of neuroscientists as looking out at the world and seeing people through the lens of neural structures and functions, as though we are all walking brains on electronically wired stick figures.  And indeed, in the past, cognitive science has tried to simplify the process of understanding the brain through use of basic computer based and electronic circuitry models (I’m recalling the ‘80s).  From two-step models to complex connectivity projects, our understanding, tools, and methods for mapping out the structures and functions of the brain has matured over the decades, complementing our understanding of the brain itself (NIH Human Connectome Project, 2013).  Research and understanding of gifted children has also matured.  And today, we have more research that combines neuroscience and gifted than we have in the past.

    There is a population of people who share characteristics that congeal and congregate under the umbrella that we call gifted (Daniels & Piechowski, 2009; Morelock, 1992;  NAGC,  2011;  Silverman, 1993).  And there is agreement within the gifted community on at least one characteristic, ‘potential’ and/or what many call ability (Morelock,  1992;  NAGC,  2011; Rhode Island State Advisory Committee on Gifted and Talented Education, n.d.; Ruf, 2009; Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, & Worrell, 2012). 

    Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius and Worrell (2012) explain that this potential “implies an ability to perform at the extreme upper end of the distribution in a certain area” (p. 52).  Research on gifted children has utilized tests and assessment to quantify this ability and performance, as well as understand human capabilities.  If you are reading this and have a child under the gifted umbrella, you know that several types of tests are used to determine such potential, ranging from intellectual and academic tests to tests of creativity and demonstrated achievement within a particular subject area.  The types of tests used and the promise of what an assessment offers, as well as the cut-off criteria utilized, varies drastically across programs and institutions. The search for the gifted brain began long ago, and one theorist, Dabrowski, postulated that gifted individuals, as a whole, possess qualities different from the norm (Ackerman, 2009; Daniels & Piechowski, 2009).

    He defined these qualities as overexcitabilities or “superstimulatability” such that “persons may require less stimulation to produce a response, as well as stronger and more lasting reactions to stimuli” across 5 broad domains: psychomotor, sensation, imagination, intellectual and emotional (Daniels & Piechowski, 2009, p. 8-9).

    Dabrowski, to me, seems to be describing neural pathways or systems.

    If we look through the neuroscientist lens at ‘potential’ as the performance of the gifted child through the theoretical concept of overexcitabilities, we can begin to ask, what is it that makes the gifted child’s brain different? And, is the gifted child’s brain different?

    Studies using a scale that quantify overexcitabilities have found differences in the presence and level of overexcitabilities between children identified as gifted and those who are not (Ackerman & Paulus, 1997). Gifted children displayed and scored high on intellectual and emotional overexcitabilities as compared to those who were not identified as gifted (Ackerman & Paulus, 1997).

    Gifted children also evidence anatomical and physiological neuronal differences (Geake, 2008). Those who score higher on tests and assessments differ in the biological make-up of their brains (Cole, Yarkoni, Repovš, Anticevic, & Braver, 2012; Geake, 2008; Koch et al., 2012; Mitchell, 2007; Takeuchi et al., 2011).


    Geake (2008) suggests that the current research supports gifted individuals as possessing “more efficacious working memory with an enhanced executive function, focused attention, delayed closure, and evaluation selection.”  The frontal lobe is the ‘executive’ functioning portion of our brains.  It is the manager.  It breaks down complex problems, sequences, and overseas how problems are solved.  Studies have found differences in the frontal lobe of those with higher intellectual abilities, finding higher volumes of grey matter and more rapid growth in the thickness of the cortex associated with those who have higher abilities (Cole et al., 2012; Geake, 2008).


    Other studies suggest that people with higher abilities utilize their brain more efficiently due to greater neural synchronization in the brain (Geake, 2008; Koch et al., 2012).  Synchronicity is the ongoing conversations and relay of information across brain areas and this connectivity gives rise to cognitive functions (Koch et al., 2012).


    High ability performers have brain anatomical and physiological differences (Cole et al., 2012; Geake, 2008; Koch et al., 2012; Mitchell, 2007; Takeuchi et al., 2011). We call these high performers or high ability children, gifted children. And the research suggests that gifted children may process information faster and “more richly,” just like Dabrowski postulated, due in part to structural brain differences (Daniels & Piechowski, 2009; Hanscombe et al., 2012). These brain differences and greater connectivity/synchronicity do “combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm” (Geake, 2008; Morelock, 1992). These differences result in unique ways of perceiving the world and require unique approaches in education, parenting, and psycho-social development (Morelock, 1992; NAGC, 2011; Webb et al., 2005).


    To me, these findings suggest that gifted children have special needs that cannot be accounted for by environmental influences alone. Yes, environment does play a role in enrichment of potential, but there is evidence that those who possess higher abilities have different brain structures than those who do not possess those abilities.  And this, in and of itself, cannot be denied or overlooked.


    Have we found the gifted brain?  No, but we have begun the journey, and there is great hope with the advent of the Connectome Project and advances in science and technology (NIH Human Connectome Project, 2013).



    Catherine Gruener is the founder and owner of Gruener Consulting, LLC, an education program provider offering solutions to both parents and educators. Through its unique workshops and services for gifted children, and positive discipline parent classes and seminars, Ms. Gruener offers insight and tools for parents and teachers in large group seminars, online courses, and private consultations.


    Ms. Gruener holds a Master’s degree in neuropsychology and a second Master’s degree in professional counseling from the Adler School of Professional Psychology.  She is certified in Positive Discipline, as a Positive Discipline Trainer Candidate (PDTC). She is a Licensed Professional Counselor candidate in the state of Illinois.


    Ms. Gruener has served 16 plus years in the mental health field contributing to neuropsychology, psychological research, community counseling, and special needs advocacy in the United States and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.  She has been an active member of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children since 2009, serving on the Social and Emotional Committee, and holds memberships in several professional organizations:  American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association, Positive Discipline Association, Illinois Association for Gifted Children, and the National Association for Gifted Children.


    For additional information please visit





    Ackerman, C. M. (2009). The Essential Elements of Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration and How They Are Connected. [Article]. Roeper Review, 31(2), 81-95. doi:    10.1080/02783190902737657


    Ackerman, C. M., & Paulus, L. E. (1997). Identifying gifted adolescents using personality characteristics: Dabrowski's overexcitabilities. [Article]. Roeper Review, 19(4), 229.


    Cole, M. W., Yarkoni, T., Repovš, G., Anticevic, A., & Braver, T. S. (2012). Global Connectivity of Prefrontal Cortex Predicts Cognitive Control and Intelligence. The  Journal of Neuroscience, 32(26), 8988-8999. doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.0536-12.2012


    Daniels, S., & Piechowski, M. M. (2009). Living with Intensity. Scottsdale: Great Potential Press, Inc.


    Geake, J. G. (2008). High abilities at fluid analogizing: a cognitive neuroscience construct of giftedness. Roeper Review, 30(3).


    Hanscombe, K. B., Trzaskowski, M., Haworth, C. M. A., Davis, O. S. P., Dale, P. S., & Plomin, R. (2012). Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Children's Intelligence (IQ): In a UK-Representative Sample SES Moderates the Environmental, Not Genetic, Effect on IQ. PLoS One, 7(2), e30320. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030320


    Koch, G., Bozzali, M., Bonnì, S., Giacobbe, V., Caltagirone, C., & Cercignani, M. (2012). fMRI Resting Slow Fluctuations Correlate with the Activity of Fast Cortico- Cortical Physiological Connections. PLoS One, 7(12), e52660. doi: 10.1371/ journal.pone.0052660


    Mitchell, K. J. (2007). The Genetics of Brain Wiring: From Molecule to Mind.


    PLoS Biol, 5(4), e113. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050113


    Morelock, M. J. (1992). Giftedness: The View from Within. Understanding Our Gifted Open Space Communications, 4(3), 1, 11-15.


    NAGC. (2011). What is Gifted?, from id=574&an


    NIH Human Connectome Project. (2013). Human Connectome Project, from


    Rhode Island State Advisory Committee on Gifted and Talented Education. (n.d.). Characteristics and Behaviors  of  the Gifted, from character.html#Myths


    Ruf, D. L. (2009). 5 Levels of Gifted School Issues and Educational Options. Scottsdale: Great Potential Press, Inc.


    Silverman, L. K. (Ed.). (1993). Counseling the Gifted and Talented. Denver: Love Publishing Company.


    Subotnik, R. F., Olszewski-Kubilius, P., & Worrell, F. C. (2012). Nurturing the Young Genius. Scientific American Mind, 23, 50-57.


    Takeuchi, H., Taki, Y., Hashizume, H., Sassa, Y., Nagase, T., Nouchi, R., & Kawashima, R. (2011). Cerebral Blood Flow during Rest Associates with General Intelligence and Creativity. PLoS One, 6(9), e25532. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone. 0025532


    Webb, J. T., Amend, E. R., Webb, N. E., Goerss, J., Beljan, P., & Olenchak, F. R. (2005). Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults. Scottsdale: Great Potential Press, Inc.


    Posted retroactively on March 13, 2015.

  • February 12, 2013 11:13 AM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)
    In today's Fermilab Today newsletter, Fermilab announced the release of its new documentary, "Fermilab: Science at Work."  Per the newsletter, the movie "follows nine of the laboratory's scientists, giving viewers an inside look at their work (and sometimes, home) lives. But that's not to say that the film skimps on the science. It features the installation of part of the MINERvA detector, the construction of the Dark Energy Camera and an animated look at the configuration of Fermilab's accelerator complex."
  • January 23, 2013 10:41 AM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)
    The Accelerated Weekend Experience is offered in locations throughout the Midwest for students in grades 5 through 8.  A new session has just been added for March 2 -3, 2013 at Nurturing Wisdom Academy in Hinsdale.  Other sessions in the Chicagoland area include February 23 - 24, 2013 at Elgin Academy in Elgin and March 16 - 17, 2013 at Northwestern University in Evanston.  See the Center for Talent Development web site for complete details. 
  • January 21, 2013 8:55 AM | Anonymous member

    Here’s an explanation of the Arduino from a non-geek. Actual geeks, please cover your ears.

    One of the great things about being a volunteer leader working with kids is that you learn new things, try things you’d never have tried before. With my Girl Scout troops, I’ve done high ropes courses, 35 feet off the ground, including once just three months after having a baby; I’ve done backpack camping; slept in a yurt.  

    I never thought I’d be learning and explaining the Arduino but such is the joy of lifelong learning.As the co-leader of the Hacker Scouts - Near West, so far I’ve gotten refreshers on kinetic energy, sound waves and lots of practice tearing duct tape for kids.

    What’s the Arduino then? It’s a microcontroller. That doesn’t help, does it? 

    I’ve come to the conclusion that what makes the Arduino so hard to explain is that it can do so many things and it disappears into whatever project someone’s built. You see the project and think, “Cool,” but you don’t notice the Arudino.  Basically, and Arduino is this small circuit board doo-hickey that includes a computer chip and some places where you can connect things to it. You program the Arduino by connecting it to a computer and then you send that programming, or instructions to the Arduino.

    Some teens and adults recently took at CGCC class in Arduino at Workshop 88, a Hacker Space in suburban Glen Ellyn.  They did the classic first Arudino project, which is to program it to make an LED light flash.

    So, to summarize, the purpose of the Arduino is take a simple task, like plugging in a light bulb, and make it really complicated and convoluted.  You could use an Arudino to program some motors that you could connect to a robotic vehicle, for example. You could create a message in lights, controlled by Arduino.I should just show some cool projects that people make with them, here are some links.

    20 Unbelievable Arduino Projects
    (try to keep your kids from seeing the flame throwing pumpkin!)

    Here’s another round up post of Arduino Projects, including the twitter-enabled coffee pot:

    In addition, you can combine multiple Arduinos in one project. Many of the things you can do with an Arduino, you could also do with Lego’s NEXT, however, price is a huge factor. NEXT is about $280.00, and while it’s a great product and easy to use, that’s a big investment. An Arduino is just $30.00 and you program it with free, open source software. As a bonus, that software comes in mac, pc and Linux versions.

    Here’s a video at MAKEzine that answers, “What’s an Arduino?”

  • January 15, 2013 8:33 PM | Anonymous member
    This weekend tech genius and internet activist Aaron Swartz took his own life. Parents of gifted kids grabbed those kids tightly and wordlessly said that prayer from the soul all frightened parents say over their children. Jen Merrill, our north suburban board member, wrote of Aaron and gifted children this weekend: 

    "It’s more than likely you do not know the name Aaron Swartz; before this morning I did not either. But if you are reading this on a feed reader, he is why. Among many other things, he helped create the RSS feed by which you’re reading this. When he was 14.

    Yesterday he hanged himself."

    You can read the rest of the post at her blog, Laughing at Chaos. 
  • January 15, 2013 11:45 AM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    The National Girls Collaborative Project  January 2013 E-Newsletter had a link to the EngineerGirl Essay Contest.  Every year, the EngineerGirl website sponsors a contest dealing with engineering and its impact on our world.  This year's contest is titled "Essential To Our Health."  The contest is open to girls and boys in grades3 - 12.  Submissions are due March 1,2013.  Winners receive cash prizes.

  • January 15, 2013 12:07 AM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    Registration is open for Winter Cascade 2013 which runs from January 29 - February 26.  Topics for this session include:


    Color Theory and the Language of Art

    Synthetic Biology:Hacking the Genome

    The History of Rock

    The Ethical Life

    Make No Small Plans: How Chicago Came to Be

    Reading Between the Lines: Introduction to Music Analysis

    Staring Into Infinity

    Psychology: A Brief Introduction to How Your Mind Works

    City Government: Discover the Power of You

    Is your brain lying to you? The truth behind visual perception

    The Philosophy of Death: Why is death badundefinedor is it?

    How to Lead: A Crash Course In Leadership

    When Movies Get it Wrong

    Basic Beginner Jazz Dance



    Splash! Chicago is a student organization at the University of Chicago that runs free after-school and weekend programs for high school students. Their goal is to introduce students from different walks of life to topics that aren’t approached in the traditional classroom– anything from pirate history and culture to tap dancing and religious cults– in a fun, collaborative setting. Our programs are open to all high school students: there’s no application and there’s no charge.

    We host two programs on the University of Chicago campus: Splash! runs annually on a Saturday in October and is attended by several hundred high school students; Cascade runs Tuesday evenings, fall and winter, and is attended by about one hundred students. Students have the opportunity to explore several different subjects at Splash!, while Cascade offers an opportunity to explore one or two subjects more in-depth!

  • January 14, 2013 11:34 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    Registration for the Tinkering School Chicago overnight summer camp has started.  Registration ends March 1, 2013 so be sure to start on the application soon.


    Also, the Tinkering Lab at Chicago Children's Museum opens on February 5.  Dustin, the director of Tinkering School Chicago, will be building, testing and breaking stuff in there every Thursday night and Saturday this spring.


  • November 01, 2012 2:36 PM | Linda Zanieski (Administrator)

    The Gifted Education Cooperative (GECO) is sponsoring a discussion group for parents, facilitated by our own Newenka DuMont.


    Meet with a group of parents for 8 consecutive weeks beginning Thursday, January 24th, 2013 ending March 14th, 2013 to discuss issues of giftedness. We will meet from approximately 9:15 – 10:45 am. The location for these discussions will be in the Hinsdale area.


    Each week we will read one or two chapters of the book A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children and discuss them as a group.  Additional readings from the gifted press will be provided.  We will cover a variety of topics relevant to raising gifted children, such as maintaining motivation and enthusiasm, avoiding underachievement, coping with intensity, perfectionism, stress, idealism, and depression, making and keeping friends, handling siblings, and more. 


    The cost for participation will be $50, which will be used to pay for materials and facilities.  Additionally, each participant will need to acquire a copy of the book.


    The guided reading will be facilitated by GECO volunteer Newenka DuMont, the mother of two gifted teenagers.  She is the founding president of the Gifted Education Cooperative and on the board of the Chicago Gifted Community Center.  Newenka is the Illinois SENG (Social and Emotional Needs of the Gifted) Liaison and a certified SENG Model Parent Group facilitator.  She has been leading guided reading groups in our area since 2003. 

    If you are interested in participating or in receiving more information, please email Newenka at by November 30, 2012. (Don’t like Thursdays?  Let her know you are interested but have a conflict.) The group size will be limited to 12 people, on a first come, first served basis.  Like most GECO functions, there is no need to be a GECO member or to reside in our communities to participate. We will need at least 8 people to form a group. 

  • October 23, 2012 2:10 PM | Anonymous member
    This past Sunday the 21st the CGCC hosted its first northern region event. Held at C&A Robot Factory in Libertyville, it was a fun-filled afternoon of Legos and science. We had a great turnout, with some families traveling as long as an hour to meet up with other gifted families. The seventeen Lego builders built and programmed a drumming monkey (who doesn't love a Lego drumming monkey?), as well as built and tested a race car. The creativity and curiosity in the room was awesome to see. Photos from the event can be seen on our CGCC Facebook page.

    We hope to have another Lego event at C&A Robot Factory in the spring, but there will surely be other activities and gatherings before then. If there is something you would like to see in your area, please contact one of the board members.

    Many thanks to C&A Robot Factory for their help in setting up this event! 

About cgcc

The Chicago Gifted Community Center (CGCC) is a member-driven 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by parents to support the intellectual and emotional growth of gifted children and their families. 

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