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article imageSuper-connectivity of Einstein's brain a clue to his genius

By Robert Myles     Oct 8, 2013 in Science
Tallahassee - The left and right hemispheres of leading twentieth century physicist Albert Einstein, who developed the Theory of Relativity, were exceptionally well connected to each other, a new study has found.
The unusual connections between the two parts of Einstein’s brain, researchers postulate, may explain why the winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics was such a brilliant theoretician.
The new study was conducted by evolutionary anthropologist Dean Falk, Hale G. Smith Professor and Chair of Anthropology at Florida State University. As reported in Digital Journal in 2012, Professor Falk was also involved in an earlier study of Einstein’s brain.
Commenting on the latest study, entitled "The Corpus Callosum of Albert Einstein's Brain: Another Clue to His High Intelligence," which was published in the journal Brain, Professor Falk said, “This study, more than any other to date, really gets at the 'inside' of Einstein's brain. It provides new information that helps make sense of what is known about the surface of Einstein's brain."
Albert Einstein died, aged 76, in 1955 but more than half a century after his death, research into his brain continues since the physicist’s brain was removed during an autopsy just seven and a half hours after Einstein’s death.
Dr. Thomas Stoltz Harvey, a pathologist working at Princeton University, carried out Einstein’s autopsy. Harvey was nothing if not thorough for, in addition to removing Einstein’s brain, and pickling it in formalin solution, he took a vast number of photographs before documenting the brain. He then dissected the brain into well over 200 pieces with the intention that scientists might decipher just what made Einstein such a genius.
Whether Einstein consented to his brain being bequeathed for scientific research remains a matter of dispute. But, removed it was and parts of his brain were despatched to leading pathologists.
The latest Florida State University study involved detailing Einstein’s corpus callosum. Corpus callosum, also known as the colossal commissure, is the brain’s largest bundle of fibers that connect the left and right cerebral hemispheres, facilitating communication between the left and right halves of the brain.
This new technique was developed by lead author of the Florida State study, Weiwei Men of East China Normal University's Department of Physics. Using this technique, Men measured and color-coded the various thicknesses of subdivisions of the corpus callosum along its length, where nerves cross from one side of the brain to the other. The different thicknesses are indicators of the number of nerves that cross between the two hemispheres of the brain and thus how “connected” the two cerebral halves are in particular regions.
Different regions of the brain facilitate different functions, dependent on where bunches of fibers cross from one side to the other. Hand movement, for example, is governed by connections near the front while mental arithmetic is facilitated by brain connections along the back.
As control groups, researchers also compared measurements of Einstein’s brain with two samples —one comprising 15 elderly men and the other consisting of 52 men the same age as Einstein was in 1905.
The second group of 26-year-olds was chosen since 1905 represented one of Einstein’s most productive years in developing a number of theories. That year came to be known as Einstein’s “miracle year”, as the physicist published a series of articles that had a huge impact of modern physics as we know it. Einstein’s articles on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, the Special Theory of Relativity, published at the beginning of the twentieth century, continue to shape mathematicians’ and scientists’ views of the Universe to this day. 1905 was also the year Einstein published his seminal work that would lead to, arguably, the world’s best known mathematical formula: E = mc2
The research team found that Einstein had more extensive connections between certain parts of his cerebral hemispheres when compared with both younger and older control groups.
In the earlier study on Einstein’s brain, published by Professor Falk and her colleagues in 2012, part of their research involved a study of many of pathologist Dr. Harvey’s original photographs. The 2012 study, entitled, “The Cerebral Cortex of Albert Einstein: A Description and Preliminary Analysis of Unpublished Photographs,” published in Oxford Journals (PDF).
From the Harvey photographs the 2012 researchers were able to produce a “road-map” of Einstein’s brain. One of the intriguing features of the 2012 'road-map' concerned an unusual feature of Einstein's primary motor cortex. An enlarged 'knob' was found which researchers associated with Einstein's left hand. The larger than expected size of the 'knob' scientists put down to Einstein, in his youth, being a keen violinist, deducing a correlation between this enlarged area of the cortex and Einstein's musical talents.
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