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Geniuses Use Both Sides of the Brain

Why are some people so much smarter than the rest of us? One reason may be that they've learned how to use both sides of their brain at the same time. Scientists know that the left side of the brain is the problem-solving side, while the right side is more imaginative. But if you're one of those rare people who can combine them, you can harness incredible brain power.

A recent study of teenagers who are above-average math students found that the right and left halves of their brains are better able to work together than the brains of average students. Psychologist Michael O'Boyle says, "Giftedness in math, music or art may be the by-product of a brain that has functionally organized itself in a different way."

How can you get a brain like that? It's partly due to genetics, and partly due to the environment. O'Boyle says, "I don't think we can create a math genius without the innate talent already there."

Neurologist Heidi Roth says, "There's a lot of interest in how training and learning can affect the brain's functional organization and structure, but it's controversial. We have recently become aware of the striking ability of the brain to change its organization depending on experience. For example, people who are highly skilled string instrument players will have greater representation in the brain for the left hand, because special skills in the left hand are needed to play these instruments."

The differences are caused by the corpus callosum. "It's the conduit for information crossing from one hemisphere of the brain to another," says Roth. "The corpus callosum allows the two hemispheres of the brain to speak to one another. If it's severed, the integration between the two hemispheres is very poor."

The corpus callosum is often larger in left-handed people, who are also more likely to be gifted in math. Other traits of math geniuses: besides being left-handed, they tend to be males who are nearsighted and have more allergies and migraine headaches.

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