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Review and Discussion of Mark Cornillie's book, The Brainiac Paradox

Release Date: March 21, 2014

On Thursday, February 13, LTU’s HSSC department hosted a book review and discussion of The Brainiac Paradox, by author Mark Cornillie. The event was held in the Welcome Center of the Taubman Student Services building, and was organized and presented by the Southeastern Michigan chapter of the Society for Technical Communication.

Mark began his program by explaining that the “brainiac paradox” he investigated and wrote about involved people who demonstrated extraordinary genius or other abilities in certain endeavors (think savants or child prodigies), but were often socially “atypical” or disadvantaged regarding their interpersonal communication skills. This led him to further investigate why some people excel at or are extremely successful in one area of their lives but not in others. Mark discussed how such people strongly demonstrate the characteristics of the brain’s left-hemisphere (logical, analytical, mathematical, and organized), while severely lacking in the traits of the brain’s right hemisphere (intuitive, empathetic, emotive, and holistic). He gave examples of the impact of this paradox on the individual’s performance in both personal and organizational settings, and how hard it was for the “brainiacs” to relate to others in team or collaborative settings. Mark also explained how his studies led him to related discussions involving Autism, Aspergers Syndrome, and the theories and therapies developed in response to these conditions.

Mark’s insight into the question of the role of nature versus nurture on this behavior proved to be especially interesting, along with the therapies and treatments that have been developed and implemented by neurologists and others. Especially fascinating was Mark’s story of “Nadia”, a young girl who at a very early age demonstrated remarkable drawing and sketching skills on par with those of accomplished artists. Yet she also displayed traits of Autism so severe that she was not able to communicate with others. After being treated for her symptoms of Autism, however, she was able by the age of 12 years to communicate on an appropriate level, but her artistic ability had regressed by then to also be that of a 12 year old. Were the changes to these two areas of personal development and ability related to her therapy?

Mark concluded his presentation discussing his position that the brainiac paradox “is not a defective way of thinking, but a different way of thinking.” For those who find studies of the human brain, thought processes, and how we communicate with others a fascinating topic, The Brainiac Paradox is a fascinating read.


Tom Glennan / 2-17-14