Neuroscience and Multiple Intelligences

In his landmark book, Frames of Mind  (Basic Books, 1983), Howard Gardner identified neuroscience evidence as an essential feature of Multiple Intelligences theory. This was a unique addition to the scientific literature. Due to our limited understanding of the brain’s structure and processes at that time only two or three neural regions were identified for each intelligence.

The M.I.S.T. Project

Despite tremendous advances in neural imaging and many sophisticated research efforts worldwide, the neural evidence for MI theory has not been systematically re-evaluated since its introduction. Until now. I initiated the M.I.S.T. Project (Multiple Intelligences as Scientific Theory) in 2015 in order to determine if there is coherent evidence that each intelligence has its own unique neural systems and circuits.

The M.I.S.T Project has reviewed over 500 neuroscientific studies and resulted in the publication of seven papers in journals. See titles:  MIST Publications. Journals include : Psychology and Neuroscience; Roeper ReviewJournal of Intelligence; Trends in Neuroscience and Education. The goal of this investigation has been to bring the existing body of neuroscience evidence into the public domain to facilitate an open and informed discussion of the evidence.

Is MI Just a Fad or a Scientific Verity?

The validation of a novel idea as a legitimate ‘scientific theory’ is not a quick or easy process. This is as it should be.  Nobody wants to build a school on a conceptual foundation that is shaky.  In 2008 during a symposium examining the status of MI theory my presentation was entitled: After 25 Years is MI Theory Just a Fad or a Scientific Verity that Will Stand the Test of Time?   It is now nearly 40 years since MI launched a worldwide discussion regarding the nature of intelligence and its implications for teachers, school administrators and governmental leaders. It is time for an in-depth review and evaluation of the evidence from numerous perspectives.   Perhaps most importantly, what we need is a careful examination of what neuroscientific researchers have revealed about the thinking brain, defined broadly.


The brain consists of about 80 – 100 billion neurons. Each neuron has a multitude of connections to other neurons and their patterns of activation are what make thinking and behavior possible. We are each born with unique neural structures and processes that are continually changing in response to environmental stimuli.  As a general rule, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” This means that repetitive use or, conversely, disuse changes these activation patterns. We know that a memory is an enduring activation pattern among a constellation of neurons that is easily generated. The same is thought to be true for our skills and abilities.

Why is it Important that MI is Based on Neuroscience?

There are several reasons for knowing that MI is rooted in evidence from brain science.

  • Your Brain is unique!    Use strengths to maximize success.
  • Educators need to design instruction and curriculum that focuses on students’ unique abilities.
  • Build your Intrapersonal intelligence for lifelong happiness.
  • Connect your MI strengths to specific careers to promote achievement and happiness.
  • Nobody is perfect. We have strengths as well as limitations.
  • Every brain is embedded in an environment and culture that influences development.
  • Leverage your MI strengths to promote your academic success.
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