Surprise! Albert Einstein's brain was unlike the rest of ours, new study says

Published: Friday, Nov. 16 2012 12:25 p.m. MST

"Some of these studies did find interesting features in Einstein's brain, including a greater density of neurons in some parts of the brain and a higher than usual ratio of glia (cells that help neurons transmit nerve impulses) to neurons," wrote Science's Michael Balter. Two earlier studies, including one that was also by Falk, "found that Einstein's parietal lobes — possibly linked to his remarkable ability to conceptualize physics problems — had a very unusual pattern of grooves and ridges."

In an interview with Scientific American, Falk explained that "the cerebral cortex, the outside part of the brain, is really important because it’s where we humans do our higher conscious thinking. It’s the most advanced region of the brain. As our ancestors’ brains increased in size, there was a tendency for more convolutions to appear in the cortex. The convolutions are a way of increasing volume in the brain in a closed container like the skull. The convolutions are also important because they may be indicative of the extent of connections beneath the brain’s surface. In some cases, the grooves that delimit the convolutions , the sulci, may even define a specific functional area."

The study's major contribution may be in kick-starting more studies, Sandra Witelson, a behavioural neuroscientist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who discovered that the parietal operculum is missing from Einstein’s brain, told Nature. “It makes clear the location and accessibility of photographs and slides of Einstein's brain,” she says. “This may serve as an incentive for other investigations of Einstein's brain, and ultimately of any consequences of its anatomical variations.”

Falk collaborated on the study with neurologist Frederick Lepore of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, N.J., and Adrianne Noe, director of the museum.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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