Enhanced right hemisphere activation in the mathematically precocious: A preliminary EEG investigation

Michael W. O'boyle, Joel E. Alexander, Camilla Persson Benbow

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A preliminary electroencephalographic (EEG) investigation was conducted to determine if the pattern of hemispheric activation in mathematically precocious youth differs from that of average math ability subjects. Alpha activity at four brain sites (frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes) over the left and right cerebral hemispheres (LH/RH) was monitored while 12- to 14-year-old, righthanded males: (a) looked at a blank slide (baseline condition), (b) judged which of two chimeric faces was "happier," and (c) determined if a word was a noun or a verb. At baseline, the LH of the precocious group was found to be more active at all four brain sites relative to that of the average ability group. During chimeric face processing, the gifted subjects exhibited a significant reduction in alpha power over the RH, primarily at the temporal lobe, while no such alpha suppression was observed in the average ability subjects. For noun/verb determinations, no significant alpha power reductions were obtained for either group. These electrophysiological data generally corroborate the behavioral findings of O'Boyle and Benbow (1990a) and support their contention that enhanced RH involvement during cognitive processing may be a correlate of mathematical precocity. Moreover, the pattern of activation observed across tasks suggests that the ability to effectively coordinate LH and RH processing resources at an early age may be linked to intellectual giftedness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-153
Number of pages16
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1991


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