Einstein’s Unusual Brain

Previously unreleased photographs show that Einstein’s brain had several unusual features that could explain his extraordinary cognitive abilities.

By | November 19, 2012

Wikimedia, Library of CongressPhotographs of Albert Einstein’s brain, taken shortly after his death but never previously released to the public, have revealed several unusual topographic features that may explain why the physicist was so clever, according to a study out last week (November 16) in Brain.

After Einstein died in 1955, pathologist Thomas Harvey removed and preserved the physicist’s brain. He took dozens of black and white photos from various angles before the brain was cut into 240 blocks, from which histological slides were prepared and sent to leading neuropathologists. Most of this material seems to have been lost over the years, but in 2010 what remains of Harvey’s private collection was given to the US Army's National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Having obtained 14 photographs from the collection, anthropologist Dean Falk from Florida State University and colleagues compared the folds and grooves of Einstein’s brain to those of 85 brains photographed for other studies. Although Einstein’s brain was average in size, they noticed patterns rarely seen in other brains, such as a larger and more intricately folded prefrontal cortex—a region thought to be important for abstract thinking. The team also spotted differences in the right somatosensory cortex, the region that receives sensory information from systems in the body sensitive to touch, which could explain—or perhaps result from—Einstein’s well-honed ability to play the violin.

“These [brain features] may have provided the neurological underpinnings for some of his visuospatial and mathematical abilities,” said Falk in a press release.

(Hat tip to Nature)

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo


Avatar of: Paul Stein

Paul Stein

Posts: 237

November 19, 2012

Just wondering if most scientists have a "larger and more intricatedly folded prefrontal cortex".

Avatar of: rosinbio


Posts: 13

November 19, 2012

This kind of research strikes me as a complete waste of time, because no two humans (including identical twins) are perfectly identical, and cannot, therefore,possess fully uidentical brains. In other words, everyone has a brain with its own peculiarities, which may not be on thescale of the peculiarities of Einstein's brain, but must still be there, possibly on the scale of far smaller details.

I do not believe it would ever be possible to understand why a specific person thought in specific ways when he was alive, by studying the morphology, and anatomy of his brain after his death.  There has never been even the slightest evidence that any specific thought leaves a specific permanent stamp on the thinker's brain; never mind that a person who died at an old age, must have had many thousands of different thought coursing through his mind during his lifetime!

Suppose you know with certainty that he had a specific thought, because he stated so in full detail in writing. How are you going to start searching for the stamp of that specific thought in his preserved, dead brain?



Avatar of: TSR


Posts: 2

Replied to a comment from rosinbio made on November 19, 2012

November 20, 2012


"This kind of research" seems to be akin to the pseudoscience called phrenology. 

Avatar of: kienhoa68


Posts: 37

November 24, 2012

I wonder if any evidence is available through dna analysis that could support

these observations?

Popular Now

  1. Can Young Stem Cells Make Older People Stronger?
  2. Thousands of Mutations Accumulate in the Human Brain Over a Lifetime
  3. Two Dozen House Republicans Do an About-Face on Tuition Tax
  4. CRISPR to Debut in Clinical Trials