Could you have been a child prodigy?

To quickly answer this question: YES! With a lot of time-consuming hard work and dedication technically anyone could achieve exceptional talent in one field or another, seeing as how prodigies are made and not born.

How many times have you browsed through YouTube, discovering not only random cat videos, but also young children with abilities you wish you possessed? Although being able to compose sheet music at the age of twelve might not be a practical vocation for most people, already having graduated with honors from a respectable university at that age might come handy later on in life.

“My brain is better than everybody’s!”

There is no 100% certainty that prodigies will, genetically speaking, pass on their knowledgeable aptness. Sorry to burst the bubble but if you were a musical genius at ten your child will not consequently become your successor, but he or she may possess a variation of your genes that will influence them otherwise. A good example would be the ACTN3 gene that produces a muscle-strength enhancing protein known as alpha-Actinin3. “about half of Eurasians and 85% of Africans carry at least one copy of this ‘power gene.’[…]” says Juan Enriquez along with Steve Gullans, authors of Olympics: Genetically enhanced Olympics are coming.

Even if one has the right genes per say, to excel more than others it isn’t quite correct to regard that person as a prodigy. Though mapping a prodigy’s brain can be quite complex, what we know (so far) is that these extraordinary children under eighteen advance at rapid speed and are able to take in and process information much faster than others their age.

The abilities of some gifted youngsters, autistic children for example, will possibly never be fully comprehensible to us, such is the nature of the human mind, but if you learn about the extensive training Mozart went through as a young toddler and how the Williams sisters practiced up to 6 hours a day with their father, it is easily understood how some of these child geniuses (and later on in life highly skilled adults) came to be.

If parents invest hours and hours of training their offspring the chances of, for the lack of a better word, creating a prodigy is quite possible. Mozart, Beethoven, Marie Curie stunned the world at early stages in their lives. Even young people of the 21st century such as Serena & Venus Williams and the soccer Wunderkind Neymar were sought to be prodigious youths in their athletic fields.

As a result of their parents’ influence the likes of Mozart and Madame Curie amounted to greatness. If not for the love and passion these individuals showed at an early age they might not have been as remarkable as they are now.

Not all brains think alike

“Children who are extremely gifted tend to be socially different too,” says Ellen Winner, a psychology professor at Boston College. “They feel like they can’t find other kids like themselves, so they feel kind of weird, maybe even like a freak, and feel like [they] don’t have anybody to connect with.”

This is the sad truth about some prodigies, especially those in the mathematical and musical area. According to Winner there has been no case study on the comparison of a prodigy’s brain to that of an average child until now. If there were, the results would most likely conclude something on the lines of how prodigies rely more on their brains than their ordinary age mates. This might sound belittling towards the non-gifted children, but it is the case with soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Jr.

Some are different, others are special

In an experiment carried out by two university graduates Neymar, along with a group of seven male participants between the ages 18-32, were subjected to the theory of how motor skill ability correlates with brain activity when both are to be used at the same time. From the experiment the researchers concluded that compared to the other volunteers Neymar showed the least “neural resources in the motor-cortical foot regions during foot movements.”

Now, what is to be made of that? After all the surmising of how important and significant the brain is when it comes to prodigies here appears Neymar and contravenes by basically saying “Hey, I don’t really need to use my brain to be known as a soccer phenomenon.”

But to clear up any misunderstandings that may have arised now, the reason why Neymar doesn’t concentrate on his foot-work as much as others is not because he is less intelligent. Over the course of their soccer life, players seem to develop their own tactics and strategies of how to control the ball. Playing becomes a reflex for some and they do not necessarily need to concentrate on their motoric skills, as is the case with Neymar, who can therefore use his remaining brain resources to focus on his opponent and anticipate their next moves. The case of Neymar supports the statement of how different prodigies are.

Math prodigies differ from art prodigies, who in return differ from music prodigies. But with so much talent sprouting from all kinds of children with ten years and under the question of how excellence is measured is raised.With so many phenomena that have happened over the centuries the term “genius” might become insignificant or overrated in the future.

Learning to draw from the age of one, operating at the age of only seven years, fourteen year olds who are building nuclear fusors, will we be able to top that in future? Give the world a child that can surpass even one of these gifted youngsters and then we can start talking.

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