Einstein's Brain: 'Unusually Well-Connected' Hemispheres Led To His Genius, Study Suggests

By Josh Lieberman on October 7, 2013 12:31 PM EDT

einstein
Einstein's brain had higher-than-average levels of connectivity between right and left hemisphere, suggests a new study published in the journal Brain. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Albert Einstein's brain had unusually well-connected left and right hemispheres, according to a study published in the journal Brain. The study, led by Weiwei Men of East China Normal University's Department of Physics, suggests that this connectivity in Einstein's brain may have contributed to his genius. Men and his team drew this conclusion from detailing Einstein's corpus callosum, the bundle of fibers connecting the two cerebral hemispheres, the first time such a analysis has been done on Einstein's brain. 

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"This study, more than any other to date, really gets at the 'inside' of Einstein's brain," said Dean Falk, a Florida State University evolutionary anthropologist and a co-author of the study. "It provides new information that helps make sense of what is known about the surface of Einstein's brain."    

Men's team analyzed photographs of Einstein's corpus callosum to measure its thickness, comparing these measurements to the corpus callosums of a group of 15 elderly men and a group of 52 26-year-old men. The latter age group was chosen because that was Einstein's age in 1905, the "miracle year" in which he published four articles that shaped the foundation of modern physics.

The researchers found that parts of Einstein's corpus callosum were thicker than the other subjects, indicating a larger number of nerves running between the two hemispheres. These connections were more extensive than the other subjects, something which is believed to lead to greater interhemispheric communication.

This isn't the first time Falk has analyzed Einstein's brain. In a 2012 study, also published in Brain, Falk and her team compared photographs of Einstein's brain with 85 other human brains. Falk found that "Einstein's brain differs from the average human brain....In various parts, it's more convoluted. It's bumpier, and that may be related to an increase in the neurons." Although Einstein's brain size was normal, Falk said, he had a noteworthy cerebral cortex, the part of the brain associated with language and abstract thought.

If you're interested in drawing some conclusions about Einstein's brain yourself, download the Einstein Brain Atlas iPad app. Released last year by the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago, the app let's you look at scans of Einstein's brain as though looking through a microscope. 

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