Structural and Functional MRI of Exceptional Abilities

Project summary

This project examines the development of creative cognitive processes in a gifted sample of children and adolescents, and maps the neural system activations that mark creative cognition.

The goal of the current research is to identify the neural bases of cognitive constructs that may underlie high-level cognitive expertise (superior intelligence). In examining the bases of human intelligence, this study takes a two-pronged approach, looking at both cognitive correlates and biological bases. To study the cognitive correlates, we use tests from cognitive psychology to discover whether fundamental cognitive components can account for differences in IQ scores.  To explore the biological bases of intelligence, we use the methods of neuroscience (specifically fMRI) to shed light on the potential neural origins of differences in human intelligence. To be able to capture the fundamental neural processes supporting these exceptional abilities, we focus on three basic aspects of cognitive processing: working memory which supports the manipulation of information, integration of information that generates novel ideas and cognitive control which allows the selection of appropriate responses. By identifying the neuroanatomical circuits subserving these domains and describing the interactions between those circuits, we can provide answers to fundamental questions about general intelligence and cognitive reasoning in the developing human brain.  Furthermore, the proposed studies may provide novel insight into brain regions that are involved in creative thought and divergent thinking.

Investigators
Primary Investigator: 
Susan Bookheimer, Ph.D.
Primary Investigator: 
Istvan Molnar-Szakacs
Primary Investigator: 
Fred Sabb