Genius have always fascinated researchers and the common folks. The ability of their brain to perform superhuman calculation and out-of-the-box thinking is something that we all desire. We are constantly seeking the secrets of their immerse intelligent so that one day, we could use this secrets to make us genius. But geniuses are a very very rare bred and even fewer of them are willing to give up their brain for scientific research. However, the neuroscientist dream came true when Albert Einstein died in 1955 and permission were given by his sons to extract his brain for scientific research.
Figure 1 showing Dr. Thomas Harvey holding a jar containing what’s left of Albert Einstein Brain.
Just hours after Albert Einstein’s death, Dr. Thomas Harvey extracted his brain and sliced it into 240 pieces. The 240 pieces were then distributed to various university around the world for futher analysis. However the technology back in 1955 were limited and neuroscientist couldn’t discover anything that’s special about Albert Einstein Brain.
But recently, thanks to a huge effort by the University of Princeton, they managed to retrieve back 180 our of 240 pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain. 14 never before seen photos of his brain before dissection were retrieved in the process too. Couple with modern imaging technology, neuroscientist were able to create a detailed map of Albert Einstein’s brain. They compared the mapping with 80 over adult brain and discover several difference in brain structures that were unique to Albert Einstein.
Figure 1 Show the top View of Albert Einstein Brain. The front of the brain is at the top. The high resolution images have enable researcher to map out the pattern of surface folds on Albert Einstein Brain.
Firstly, Einstein’s brain was smaller but definitely different.
Most believed that smart people have larger brain. But for Albert Einstein’s brain, it was surprising smaller and weighed 9% lighter than average. Despite a smaller size, Albert Einstein had different pattern of surface folding on his brain. Some region had fewer folding while some had more foldings. Neuroscientist speculate that regions with lesser folding would meant that electrical signals in that regions can move at a greater speed as they don’t have to travel around the foldings. Whereas for region with more folding, neuroscientist speculate that this help to pack more brain cells into the region and hence allowing more complicated and higher level of thoughts.
To be specific, it was the prefrontal, somatosensory, primary motor, parietal and temporal and occipital cortices that had the greatest difference in sizes and folding pattern as compared to the a normal person. The researchers also noted that these were the regions that are critical to a person visual and space visualization as well as mathematical skills. And morphical difference in these region is very highly the reasons for Albert Einstein incredible cognitive abilities.
Figure 2 shows the region where morphical difference were observed. Red- Prefrontal lobe. Green- Primary Motor. Blue- Somatosensory. Yellow- Parietal Lobe. Green- Occipital Lobe. Pink- Temporal Lobe.
Secondly, Albert Einstein have a very different Sylvian Fissure.
In normal human being, the fissure were long and deep and divide the parietal lobe(shaded in green) into two different lobe. But for Albert Einstein, the fissure terminate prematurely and that have made Albert Einstein’s parietal lobe 15% (1 cm) wider than average. The parietal lobe is known to be responsible for helping individuals to visual and distort space. For example, trying to imagine the size of 150 olympic pools.
Thirdly, his left and right brain is very well connected
The last morphological differences was found by Reseachers from East China University. They found that the size of his Corpus Callosum was thicker than average. Corpus Callosum is just a bundle of nerve that connect your left and right brain. Thicker Corpus Callosum meant the two side of Albert Einstein were able to communicate with greater ease. This would help specialized data from one side of the date to be enhanced by another side of the brain and with great ease. Furthermore, the corpus callosum were also found to be highly wired to regions of his brain that handles visual spatial and mathematical skils.
Lastly, Albert Einstein’s Brain Cells Were Well-looked after.
Glial cell shown to be wrapping around a neurons. Glial takes good care of our brain cells and keep them at their peak.
Albert Einstein’s brain were slice into 240 pieces and further sliced to produce detailed microscopic slides. However, neuroscientist back in 1955 couldn’t find anything significant due to the lack of technology. But after 4 years, a researcher from University of California named Dr. Marian Diamond found that Albert’s Einstein have an extraordinary concentration of Glial Cells. And in part of the brains that controls visual spatial and mathematical skills, the concentration of Glial Cell were even higher than average.
It’s well know that Glial Cells are like housekeeper. They very important to brain cells and in fact, for every one brain cells, there are 9 Glial Cells on average. Glial cells have many functions in our brain. It includes blocking toxic chemicals from your blood, remove cellular waste generated by the neurons, wrap around nerves and acts as insulations and more importantly, help brain cells repair cellular damages. And having more of such glial cells in Albert Einstein brain meant that his brain cells were much well cared for compared to normal people. This that could have helped his brain cells to fires off electrical signals easily and communicate with greater efficiency.
Figure 4- Dr. Thomas Harvey Holding up a slides containing a single slices of Albert Einstein Brain. Dr. Diamond and her teams used slides like these to analyse Albert Einstein Glial Cells.
In conclusion, Albert Einstein were definitely different from the rest of us. When it was first extracted in 1955, analytical technique were too rudimentary to dig out any secrets. But with modern imaging technology and new research materials, neuroscientist were able to pinpoint 4 instances where Albert Einstein’s Brain were different from the norm. First was the pattern of surface folds, second was the lack of Sylvian Fissures, third was a thicker Corpus Callosum and lastly, higher than average concentration of Glial Cells.
This research is truly remarkable because it involves retrieving 180 out 240 pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain. No easy feat considering that Albert Einstein’s brain were scattered for close to 5 decades before being bought together by University of Princeton. And the findings were equally remarkable, it proved that our thoughts and thinking are very much physical and physical changes to your brain can drastically either improve or degrade your cognitive abilities. Although we can’t direct draft these physical changes onto us yet and make us as smart as Albert Einstein but at least now we know why smart people are smart.