Monday, December 3, 2012

Einstein's Brain

CREDIT: Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012
National Museum of Health and Medicine
Recently, there have been several news reports about Einstein's brain, due to newly uncovered photographs released on November 16 in the journal, "Brain." Apparently, scientists believe the more ridges and valleys a brain has, the more surface area it contains for neurons. This may be an important facet of an individual's potential to be a "genius," and Einstein's brain has an especially complicated topography.

Einstein's brain is said to have thicker gray matter (tied to conscious thought), more complex folds in the prefrontal cortex (used for abstract thought and planning), extra folds in the occipital lobes (related to visual processing), and asymmetrical right and left parietal lobes (key for spacial and mathematical reasoning). His right parietal lobe even has a rare extra fold, which gave him a significant inborn advantage, according to Sandra Witelson at McMaster University. For a good summary, check out this video on CNN:
Click the image above to open the CNN video in a new tab.

Yet scientists believe the brain is not a fixed organ - it can be changed for the better through choices to learn new things, actively engaging with mental challenges, playing memory games, participating in the arts, and a wide range of other activities that engage various regions of the brain and essentially grow the mind. Of course, the brain can also be harmed by trauma, drug and alcohol use, tobacco, etc. (I'm not sure if television really kills brain cells, as parents like to say, but hey, you never know!) Although the science community has made tremendous strides in understanding the human brain over the last few decades, there is so much left unknown about this complex and mysterious organ. Most likely, brain development and the shape of an individual's adult brain is based on a combination of the brain's shape at birth and the usage/thinking/experiences actively put into its development.

CREDIT: Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012
National Museum of Health and Medicine
According to Dean Falk, an anthropologist at Florida State University, "It was both nature and nurture. [Einstein] was born with a very good brain, and he had the kinds of experiences that allowed him to develop the potential he had."

Maybe there is hope for me yet! Mensa, here I come!






Sources:
  • http://www.livescience.com/24896-einstein-amazing-brain-photos.html
  • http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/11/19/165483381/scientists-get-a-new-look-at-einsteins-brain

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