16 November 2012

"Uncommon features" in Einstein's brain revealed

by Will Parker

Researchers who have just completed a new analysis of the famous scientist's grey matter say portions of Albert Einstein's brain were unlike those of most people and could be related to his extraordinary cognitive abilities.

After his death in 1955 and with the permission of his family, Einstein's brain was removed and photographed from multiple angles. It was also sectioned into 240 blocks from which histological slides were prepared.

Now, using photographs held by the National Museum of Health and Medicine, researchers have for the first time described the entire cerebral cortex of Einstein's brain. The researchers were led by Dean Falk, an evolutionary anthropologist from Florida State University.

Falk and her colleagues compared Einstein's brain to 85 "normal" human brains and, in light of current functional imaging studies, interpreted its unusual features.

"Einstein's brain has an extraordinary prefrontal cortex, which may have contributed to the neurological substrates for some of his remarkable cognitive abilities. The primary somatosensory and motor cortices near the regions that typically represent face and tongue are greatly expanded in the left hemisphere," explained Falk. "Einstein's parietal lobes are also unusual and may have provided some of the neurological underpinnings for his visuospatial and mathematical skills." Interestingly, the study notes that contrary to other reports, Einstein's brain was not spherical and did not lack parietal opercula.

Falk's study appears in the journal Brain, along with the "roadmap" to Einstein's brain prepared in 1955 by Dr. Thomas Harvey. The roadmap illustrates the locations within Einstein's previously whole brain of 240 dissected blocks of tissue, which provide a key to locating the origins within Einstein's brain of the newly emerged histological slides.

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Source: Florida State University