Einstein's Brain 'Markedly Different' From The Norm
by Joene Hendry
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The brain of Albert Einstein has clear differences from an average person's gray matter, according to a California researcher. But any possible link between these differences and his great intelligence is still unknown, she added.
To investigate whether the brain of a genius might show special features, Dr. Dahlia W. Zaidel of the University of California, Los Angeles, examined two slides made from the physicist's brain shortly after his death in 1955 at age 76. The slides contained samples of Einstein's hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for memory and word associations.
Zaidel compared Einstein's brain with tissue from 10 individuals of ordinary intelligence who ranged in age from 22 to 84 at the time of death.
The neurons on the left side of the Nobel Prize winner's hippocampus were consistently larger than those on the right. Zaidel said these findings were ``markedly different'' from those seen in the brains of individuals with normal intelligence.
She presented her findings Monday at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in San Diego, California.
While the neurons on the left side were smaller than those on the right in four of five regions of Einstein's hippocampus, the brains of ordinary people showed only minimal and inconsistent asymmetry, Zaidel found.
The larger neurons in the left hippocampus, she noted, imply that Einstein's left brain may have had stronger nerve cell connections between the hippocampus and another part of the brain called the neocortex than his right. The neocortex is ''where detailed, logical, analytical and innovative thinking takes place,'' Zaidel noted in a prepared statement.
But the origins of this asymmetry, or whether it occurred at birth, during development or as an abnormality, are unknown, she said.
``Also,'' Zaidel told Reuters Health, ``I don't yet know how this asymmetry is related to his genius.''
While normal brain tissue is available for study, Zaidel said, ``there is no brain bank for geniuses.'' She said she hopes to obtain brain tissue ``from very bright scientists and particularly physicists,'' which could make it possible to place Einstein's brain on a continuum of genius.