Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Brilliant Brain - Born Genius

According to National Geographic Channel's new documentary: My Brilliant Brain - Born Genius, there are born geniuses, and then there are whiz-kids who can be trained to become geniuses.

How? By providing a nurturing environment to bring out the best in a child's capability. If there are parents out there who are looking for tips to make Einsteins our of their children, this is a documentary not to be missed.

In Born Genius, two stories are told of a boy genius and a young girl who was cut off from the world when she was a baby, the episode gave insight into how intelligence is developed.

It tracks a musical child prodigy, Marc Yu, through his remarkable progress in the world of classical music. At age two, little Marc could bang out "Mary had a little lamb" on the piano after listening to the tune once. At three, he gave his first public performance on the piano, performing a Beethoven piece. And at seven, he is able to play 40 pieces of classical music from memory. It is truly extroardinary to listen to him play an exquisite Chopin nocturne that would have stumped a teenager who is twice his age and of normal intelligence, with a bit more practice under his belt. As the boy genius puts it gleefully: "I like the difficult pieces, especially when my teacher says no."

It also turns out that he has perfect pitch (industry insiders will know this is a very rare talent), which he was born with, not taught. Only one in 10,000 people have it.

There is also a sad, but cautionary real-life tale of a young girl, "Jeannie", in the US who was deprived of communication with people from the age of two. Cut off from human contact, the girl was left with the mental age of an 18-month-old toddler. She could barely control her psycho-motor functions when social workers found her at age 13. She eventually learnt words, but could never string them together in a grammatical sentence because she had passed the age for learning language.

The experts interviewed in the programme say the same thing: Intelligence can be inborn, but it must be nurtured at a young age to help the mind achieve its full potential. And the earlier you catch a child to nurture his mind, the better the brain becomes learning and developing. But deprive a growing brain of the opportunity to learn, and the young mind will be crippled when it has passed the development stage.

Now, back to producing a genius. Of course, your job as a parent would be much easier if your little tyke shows an inclination for the subject you want him to excel in. Little Marc professes an almost fanatical passion for music, and his mum, Chloe reveals that the little tyke would sneak down to the piano in the middle of the night in order to get in more practice.

But aside from having brains to boot, what makes a child excel is a willingness to slog at his chosen field. Because, as the documentary reveals, Marc puts in at least eight hours of practice on his music a day, without showing the faintest waning of interest. In fact, he relishes the opportunity to practise. But any other normal seven-year-old would have cried and protested at the sheer torture of it.

Watch the documentary to gain a little more insight into producing the next Mozart or Einstein, and you may just be able to produce a scholar out of your child. Of course, it makes life much easier if he was born a genius to begin with.

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