Neuroscientists Reveal Fascinating facts of Einstein’s Brain

Monday, 14 October 2013 0 comments

Neuroscientists Reveal Fascinating facts of Einstein’s Brain
Ultimate Facts on Einstein Brain
Peek into Einstein’s head reveals fascinating facts

Last week, the journal Brain published the results of a study that used a novel method to look through images of Einstein's brain. The lead author of this paper, Weiwei Men of East China Normal University, had developed a technique that lets scientists measure and colour-code the thickness of the fibres that connect the two brain hemispheres. This had let them study how well the two regions of the brain connect.

They found that Einstein had unusually strong connections between the right and left halves of his brain. Their conclusion: these strong connections may have something to do with his brilliance. To a casual observer, it may seem a bit far-fetched.

Weiwei and colleagues had compared the brain of Einstein with just two groups of about 64 people, of which one group was of the same age as Einstein. Should we compare Einstein's brain with those of ordinary people or with those of other intellectuals? When added to the body of neuroscience knowledge, however, it fits perfectly.

Neuroscientists have indeed noticed a correlation between a thick corpus callosum — as the connection is called — and intelligence. The real question is this: was Einstein endowed with a thick corpus callosum at birth or did he acquire it through sustained intellectual work? The answer will tell us a lot about the human brain.

When Einstein died in 1955, a pathologist called Thomas Harvey took out his brain, apparently without permission from his family. Einstein had wished his remains to be cremated, as he did not like it to become a place of worship. His wish was granted, as his ashes were disposed of in an unknown location.

Whether he wanted someone to study his brain is still a moot question. When Harvey died in 2007, his family gave the brain — which had been chopped up into 240 parts — to the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Now scientists use all the techniques available to them to find out the differences between Einstein's brain and those of other people. Even in the 1980s, some clues were found. Marion Diamond of the University of California in Berkeley found an abundance of glial cells, which nourish the neurons that do all our mental work. So Einstein's brain was well-nourished.

Sandra Witelson of McMaster University found that a part of his brain, the parietal lobe, was 15% wider than average. This was because a fissure that runs through the parietal lobe of all human brains was nearly absent in Einstein.

Recently, Dean Falk of Florida State University found that Einstein's prefrontal cortex had more convolutions than normal, thereby increasing its surface area. This part is involved in abstract thinking, and a larger surface area is always useful for these functions.

Scientists will soon compare Einstein's brain with those of other intellectuals. If they turn out to be similar, we still have one question: can rigorous mental work make our brain like that of Einstein? How much of our brain structure is determined by our genes and how much of it is shaped by how we use it? One man's brain may soon help us to answer this question.

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