Einstein’s brain had extraordinary folding patterns in several regions, which may help explain his genius, newly uncovered photographs suggest.
The photographs, published Nov. 16 in the journal Brain, reveal that the brilliant physicist had extra folding in his brain’s gray matter, the site of conscious thinking. In particular, the frontal lobes, regions tied to abstract thought and planning, had unusually elaborate folding, analysis suggests.
“It’s a really sophisticated part of the human brain,” said Dean Falk, study co-author and an anthropologist at Florida State University, referring to gray matter. “And [Einstein’s] is extraordinary.”
Albert Einstein was the most famous physicist of the 20th century; his groundbreaking theory of general relativity explained how light curves due to the warping of space-time.
When the scientist died in 1955 at age 76, Thomas Harvey, the pathologist who autopsied him, took out Einstein’s brain and kept it. Harvey sliced hundreds of thin sections of brain tissue to place on microscope slides and also snapped 14 photos of the brain from several angles.
Harvey presented some of the slides, but kept the photos secret in order to write a book about the physicist’s brain.
The pathologist died before finishing his book, however, and the photos remained hidden for decades. But in 2010, after striking up a friendship with one of the new study’s co-authors, Harvey’s family donated the photos to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. Falk’s team began analyzing the photos in 2011. [See Photos of Einstein’s Brain]
More brainy connections
The team found that, overall, Eintsein’s brain had much more complicated folding across the cerebral cortex, which is the gray matter on the surface of the brain responsible for conscious thought. In general, thicker gray matter is tied to higher IQs.
Many scientists believe that more folds can create extra surface area for mental processing, allowing more connections between brain cells, Falk said. With more connections between distant parts of the brain, one would be able to make, in a sense, mental leaps, drawing upon these faraway brain cells to solve some cognitive problem.
( via news.yahoo.com )