The National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD has been following the development of the cortex in over 300 children. Using MRIs, they have found some amazing data.
The brightest kids seem to actually fall behind average peers at a younger age. The thickness of the cortex is the key. It doesn’t thicken in the brightest as soon as it does in the average or above average ability kids.
Complex mental tasks are processed in the front part of the brain and on the top of the head. The brain thickens in the front and top of the head by age 9 in brighter than average children and by age 6 in average children. In the more gifted, it doesn’t seem to develop until age 11.
The cortex gets thicker and then thins out. The brightest kids have it get thicker much later than the average. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technology was used to test this development. IQs in the 121-149 range did not reach the maximum thickness in children until age 11. So, when children reach middle school they may be in a different stage of development and be different students. The former pigeon holes may no longer fit. Brain pill might help though. Should middle school teachers not base opinions on former grades? Maybe it’s a whole new game.
Implications in the education world could be interesting. Does that mean that the brightest little ones in 1st grade many not be the brightest in 6th grade? Does it matter how the teachers interact with children at the lower elementary levels? Is there anything teachers can do to further progress in brain development?