The brain is an incredibly complex organ. Someone once suggested that if the brain was so simple we could understand it, we’d be so simple that we couldn’t. However, Dr. Howard Gardner gives us one window into better understanding the brain in his theory of multiple intelligences, which posits the existence of eight (or possibly nine) intelligences. One of the criteria he used in creating this cognitive model involved regions of the brain. In his work at the veterans hospital in Boston, he noticed that brain damage (through accident or illness) could selectively impair a specific intelligence but leave other intelligences intact.
So, for example, a person might have a stroke in Broca’s area in the left frontal lobe, devastating his linguistic (or Word Smart) ability, particularly for expressive language. However, that person may still be able to sing (Music Smart), do math, and/or engage in other intelligences like Body Smart or Nature Smart. I remember working with a severely aphasic child at the Belchertown State School in Massachusetts in the 1970’s, and while his language abilities were seriously impaired, he had notable success in doing mathematics and also had good motor skills, and these were ”islands of competence” (to use Robert Brooks’ term) in the midst of his difficulties.
Knowing that there are at least eight relatively autonomous intelligences operating in the human brain provides a rationale for using a variety of approaches (music, physical activity, math work, nature hikes, social interaction, and self-esteem exercises) in helping rehabilitate individuals with severe language, motor, or other disabilities.
For more information about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, get my practical guides to MI theory for:
- Adult learners (7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences)
- Educators who teach children and adolescents — kindergarten through high school (Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, 4th edition) and/or
- Parents (In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences).
This blog post was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
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