BioScience Trends. 2014;8(5):286-289. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2014.01045)

Revisiting Einstein's brain in Brain Awareness Week.

Chen H, Chen S, Zeng LD, Zhou L, Hou ST


Albert Einstein's brain has long been an object of fascination to both neuroscience specialists and the general public. However, without records of advanced neuro-imaging of his brain, conclusions regarding Einstein's extraordinary cognitive capabilities can only be drawn based on the unique external features of his brain and through comparison of the external features with those of other human brain samples. The recent discovery of 14 previously unpublished photographs of Einstein's brain taken at unconventional angles by Dr. Thomas Stoltz Harvey, the pathologist, ignited a renewed frenzy about clues to explain Einstein's genius. Dr. Dean Falk and her colleagues, in their landmark paper published in Brain (2013; 136:1304-1327), described in such details about the unusual features of Einstein's brain, which shed new light on Einstein's intelligence. In this article, we ask what are the unique structures of his brain? What can we learn from this new information? Can we really explain his extraordinary cognitive capabilities based on these unique brain structures? We conclude that studying the brain of a remarkable person like Albert Einstein indeed provides us a better example to comprehensively appreciate the relationship between brain structures and advanced cognitive functions. However, caution must be exercised so as not to over-interpret his intelligence solely based on the understanding of the surface structures of his brain.

KEYWORDS: Albert Einstein's brain, cerebral cortex, cognitive function, Thomas Stoltz Harvey, brain photography

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