Inside Einstein's brain - Science - News - The Independent

Inside Einstein's brain

Of course it was bigger than yours. But now we can show it was a different shape, too

New research comparing the characteristics of Einstein's brain with that of four men of similar age has found structural differences. Parts of his brain were found to be larger than those of the others, while other scientists have found he had more brain cells.

The brain of the great mathematician and physicist, who died aged 76 in 1955, has long fascinated researchers, not least because while Einstein's body was cremated, his brain was saved for scientific study.

Other researchers have found that Einstein's brain possessed a greater number of glial cells for each neurone, suggesting his brain needed and used more energy. As a result it may have generated more processing ability. The job of glial cells is to provide support and protection for neurones.

Previous research has shown that the density of neurones in Einstein's brain was greater, too, and the cerebral cortex thinner than the brains to which it was compared.

Einstein's brain has also been found to have had an unusual pattern of grooves in an area thought to be involved in mathematical skills. It was 15 per cent wider than the other brains, suggesting that the combined effect of the differences may be better connections between nerve cells involved in mathematical abilities.

The latest research, due to be published this week, was conducted by scientists in the United States and Argentina.

"Einstein's astrocytic processes showed larger sizes and higher numbers of interlaminar terminal masses," say the researchers.

Exactly what effects these differences could have is not clear, and the researchers caution that what they found could simply be a sign of ageing.

The researchers also suggest that the structure of Einstein's brain may not have been unique, and that other people may have something similar, but never get the chance to use it.

"Perhaps individuals with 'special' brains and minds are more frequent than suspected. They just may go unnoticed due to socio-cultural conditions or early potential being cancelled following exposure to unwanted health or child-rearing hazards during gestation and early childhood, or lack of an adequate child-raising environment," they say.

And there's hope for us all. The researchers say that the brain structure should not be seen as a marker of intelligence in isolation. "In a species with a heavily socially moulded brain and mind, such as humans, the full expression of an individual special aptitude depends on multiple genetic and environmental factors."

The differences

1 According to previous researchers Einstein's cerebral cortex was thinner and his brain 15 per cent wider than average for a man of his age. He also had a greater than average number of nervous tissue cells called glials.

2 His brain tissue had larger sizes and greater numbers of terminal masses - or nodules. Exactly how these affected his brain function is not clear - and they might even be a sign of ageing.

3 The nodules, shown expanded might be found in other people, say researchers, but they caution that even if people have similar brains, they may never get the chance to fulfil their potential.

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Undergraduates will be able to study beatboxing and performance poetry at one of Europe’s leading conservatoires for the first time, after the Guildhall School of Music and Drama revealed plans for a “groundbreaking” degree course.

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week