Grafman received his B.A. from Sonoma State University
in Rohnert Park, California in 1974 and his Ph.D. in
Human Neuropsychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
in 1981. Dr. Grafman then joined the Vietnam Head Injury
Study at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington,
D.C. as Neuropsychology chief. In 1986, Dr. Grafman
became a senior staff fellow at the National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National
Institutes of Health. In 1991, he was named Chief of
the Cognitive Neuroscience Section, a position he still
Dr. Grafman also is on the faculty at Johns Hopkins
University, holds a number of other adjunct faculty
positions at Washington area universities, and is a
co-principal investigator with the Defense and Veterans
Head Injury Program.
of the Handbook of Neuropsychology as well as several
other texts on the frontal lobes, head injury, and neuroplasticity,
Dr. Grafman is the author of over 200 publications.
He is recognized for his work on the functions of the
human prefrontal cortex, recovery of function following
brain injury, and learning and memory.
links to this scientist's home page and other related infomation
please see our resources
I was always under the impression that we really only
use 10% of our brain. That much of it was (1) an evolutionary
excess, so that in the event that there was significant
damage to certain areas, the brain could compensate, (2)
that much of the brain is white matter that is available
for use later as well. Do we really use the entire brain?
part of the brain is assigned a unique computational function
that allows us to do everything from smell to reason about
physics. Thus, we use our entire brain. Not every situation
or moment requires that we use every single region in
the brain but over a few minutes time, you are using every
single part of the brain to move, to recognize a familiar
face, to comprehend an instruction, to remember a task
you were assigned to do, to think about how you can do
all your errands after work. To do all this, you need
your entire brain. There is room for compensation in the
brain. Sometimes a damaged brain area can be healed enough
that it can resume some of its prior duties, sometimes
the function of a damaged brain area can borrow neurons
from an adjacent region in order to process information.
But these compensatory mechanisms usually come at a cost.
They reduce the capacity of the neighboring or distant
brain areas to perform their normal duties. The white
matter in the brain serves as cables that connect different
brain regions to each other. They allow messages between
groups of neurons which leads to a simultaneity of perception
or actions that we then perceive as an episode rather
than fragments. The white matter is present in the brain
but it represents the long axons or "arms" of neurons
as they connect to each other.
Elizabeth Flanagan asked:
do the really smart people have more capacity for storing
and retaining information?
are some people who seem to have a genetic propensity
for being smart. They are unusual. For the rest of us,
there is a relationship between curiosity and lifelong
learning and the number of neurons in the brain and the
density of their connections. This lifelong neuroplasticity
associated with learning does allow more information to
be stored and is somewhat protective in old age against
the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. It really is a two
way street. The more intellectually curious you are, the
more connections in your brain. The more connections in
your brain, the easier it is to store new information.
Mike Polachuk asked:
Is it possible that Michelle's remarkable talent for knowing
future days of the week was due to the fact that the left
half of the brain is the creative side of the brain?
are looking for an explanation for the remarkable calender
calculating ability of Michelle. Well, that surprised
us too! This skill is usually seen in so-called Autistic
Savants. It has not been reported in patients who have
substantial damage to one side of their brain. It is unclear
how Michelle learned this skill. All parts of the brain
are assigned functions and we use them all. There has
always been an effort to simply capture the quality of
what the left side of the brain does in comparison to
the right side of the brain. Many people have claimed
that the right side is more creative rather than the left
side. There is no doubt that basic language skills are
stored in the left side of the brain and more nonverbal
visuospatial skills are stored in the right side of the
brain. Which strategy Michelle uses to get the correct
day of the week and which part of her brain she is using
is the subject of a study we are currently conducting
with her. There are many books that you can find in your
bookstore on laterality differences in the brain and the
special skills of autistic savants.
I took up lessons to learn to play the cello about four
years ago. And in that same time it seems that my golf
skills have deteriorated. It could just be that I'm a
lousy golfer (and cellist for that matter). But could
it also be that the part of my brain that I use for playing
golf is being crowded out by the part that is learning
the new music skills?
don't think you have to decide between music and sport!
You can do both. Because the brain is a dynamic organ,
we are able to have rapid plastic shifts between skills-even
if on occasion there is some competition. For example,
if you had different movements you had to make with your
left hand for typing on a key board or forming chords
and you were alternating between playing music for 5 seconds
and then typing an editorial comment for 5 seconds, you
might have a problem. But switching between golf and cello
should not cause much interference. But it just may be
that you playing less golf and more cello and that accounts
for the decline in your golf game. Or maybe you started
to compare your game to that of Tiger Woods! Not fair.