It is hard not to treat Albert Einstein’s brain with the deference it deserves. These days, even babies know his name, thanks to Baby Einstein line of infant products. We want our baby-Einsteins to become grown-up Einsteins. And what’s the easiest way to do this but to develop their brains? And what’s the easiest way to go about it but to figure out how the genius brain is different from the rest of them ordinary brains? And what’s the easiest way to do so but to examine Einstein’s brain and figure it out?
As recently as in 2012, a set of 14 photographs of Einstein’s brain taken just after his autopsy in April 1955 was discovered. Studies were immediately conducted and several important observations were published:
The corpus callosum of Einstein’s brain appears to be thicker than in a group of more than 50 men of similar age. This implies more nerves and, therefore, greater connectivity between the hemispheres of the brain.
There were “other peculiarities in Einstein’s brain, including an extraordinary prefrontal cortex, unusual parietal lobes, and extended somatosensory and visual cortices. The prefrontal cortex is related to abstract thought and the parietal lobes to visualization and mathematical abilities. Einstein’s developed somatosensory cortex may have been due to his violin playing.” The study was published in 2012 by Dean Falk and the team of researchers in Brain magazine.
The Secret To Einstein’s Genius? Brain Study Notes Unusually Well-Connected Hemispheres, the article in the SingularityHUB, re-tells a bizarre story of the Einstein’s brain post-mortem journey from his cranium to the 2 jars filled with formalin.
Many other publications hailed the finding as a remarkable break in the “search for the genius brain”.
Great! Now we know! That’s what he got that the rest of us — give and take a few — didn’t.
Not so fast.
Mapping Einstein’s Brain in ExtremeTech has this to say:
Some researchers would have us believe that the reason for Albert Einstein’s remarkable genius was his ample endowment of corpus callosum — the large fiber tract that, at least in most of us, connects the two halves of the brain’s cerebral cortex. However, as those that read the journal Neuroimage already know, the remarkable mind of the king of the megasavants — the “Rain Man” Kim Peek — held forth with a complete absence of this connection.
We don’t want to come out and say directly that this Einstein callosum business is complete and utter nonsense, but instead want to offer some suggestions as to what it is that this feature may or may not be doing for humans.
Kim Peek had none of what Einstein had in more sense than one. He suffered from agenesis of the corpus callosum, a condition in which the bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain is missing. His phenomenal, “inhuman” memory capacity that defies explanation might be a result of the neurons in his brain making unusual connections due to the very absence of corpus callosum.
The team of researchers behind the study of Einstein’d brain caution against any hasty conclusions too: ”We hope that future research on comparative primate neuroanatomy, paleoneurology and functional neuroanatomy will provide insight about some of the unusually convoluted parts of Einstein’s brain that we have described with little, if any, interpretation.”
…We also hope that our identifications will be useful for workers interested in comparing Einstein’s brain with preserved brains from other gifted individuals, such as the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) …
Speaking of Carl_Friedrich_Gauss and the content of his cranium…
The Case of Switched Brains
Purely coincidentally — unless everything under the stars is predetermined, which might as well be the case — just three days ago, it was proven beyond doubt that for the last 150 years the jar, containing preserved specimens of the brains of mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, was mislabeled and instead housed the brain of Göttingen physician Conrad Heinrich Fuchs. The switch probably happened soon after the death of both men in 1855.
This is the surprising conclusion reached by Renate Schweizer, a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry. She has now correctly identified the two brains, both of which are archived in a collection at the University Medical Center Göttingen. Working with experts from other disciplines, she extensively documented brain slices with a magnetic resonance imaging scanner. (Unraveling the true identity of the brain of Carl Friedrich Gauss)
The first examination of the recent MRI images at the University Medical Center of Göttingen, confirmed that the brain of the brilliant mathematician and astronomer Gauss, like that of the physician Fuchs, is largely anatomically unremarkable. The genius” and the “simply talented” organs are also similar in size and weight.
Herr Doktor Gauss, you are a disappointment… for now. Perhaps, there is something yet undiscovered that made you a genius
All right then, where does it leave us, non-Einsteins and non-Gausses of this world and our non-Einstein babies, watching baby Einstein videos from prenatal to post-pubescent age? Is there hope?
Will the day ever come when we can look straight into the mirror, push hard and release our inner Einstein (or Gauss) from the lifelong imprisonment inside our skulls? Or, better yet, subject ourselves to a non-invasive “cosmetic” surgery and dig a deeper groove between the hemispheres, precisely where Einstein or Gauss used to have them?