Genius by Nature
March 15, 2012

I’d like to think that anyone, if they put their mind to it, can achieve anything. But recent scientific research suggests that this may not be the case.

Take the Bronte family for example. All three sisters were literary geniuses. But was their intelligence past on down the generations? Scientists at MIT have found a gene which they believe to be the “Learning gene”. They deactivated this gene in mice and found that the mice could no longer be conditioned; a basic learning response, to associate one thing with another. Could it be that in geniuses this gene is some how over expressed?

Dr Ognjen Amidzic has studied the brains of both Grand Master Chess players and average players. He found that while playing, the Masters’ brain is most active in the frontal lobes, the region responsible for problem solving, while the average chess player’s brain was most active in the temporal lobes, responsible for short term memory. Dr Ognjen believes that we are born with a predisposition to be able to do certain tasks well or not. In other words, no matter how hard someone trains and studies chess strategy, they will never show Grand Master brain activity. Moreover, Grand Masters brains would have always showed this pattern.

Now there’s something to think about. If our genes and brain structure dictate what we can and can’t do, may we be trying in vain to become a genius at something that our genetics simply will not allow? Would we understand the laws of gravity if Sir Isaac Newton had a different brain activity pattern?

However, not all genius may be a result of genetics. Autism is a genetic condition which makes it hard to communicate and relate to others. Derek Paravicini was born autistic. Since the age of four he has learnt to play the piano with extraordinary talent. This did not come naturally to him and is in fact the result of thousands of hours of practice. Not all autistic people possess an incredible talent, such as Derek’s, which suggests that the cause of such a skill is not genetic.

Maybe we do not have a say in the limit of our intelligence. Or, a more comforting thought is that maybe it just takes thousands of hours of hard graft.


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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