Why Einstein Was a Genius: He Did Brain Push-Ups

Why Einstein Was a Genius – ScienceNOW.

Although the brain, weighing 1230 grams, is only average in size, several regions feature additional convolutions and folds rarely seen in other subjects. For example, the regions on the left side of the brain that facilitate sensory inputs into, and motor control of, the face and tongue are much larger than normal; and his prefrontal cortex—linked to planning, focused attention, and perseverance in the face of challenges—is also greatly expanded. “In each lobe,” including the frontal, parietal, and occipital lobes, “there are regions that are exceptionally complicated in their convolutions,” Falk says. As for the enlarged regions linked to the face and tongue, Falk thinks that this might relate to Einstein’s famous quote that his thinking was often “muscular” rather than in words. Although this comment is usually interpreted as a metaphor for his subjective experiences as he thought about the universe, “it may be that he used his motor cortex in extraordinary ways” connected to abstract conceptualization…

One thought on “Why Einstein Was a Genius: He Did Brain Push-Ups”

  1. “Dr. Marian Diamond reasoned that since Einstein’s genius related to extraordinary abilities of imagination, abstraction, and higher-level cognitive function, any physical basis for Einstein’s genius would be found in the regions of cerebral cortex serving these cognitive functions, rather than regions of cortex handling other functions such as hearing, sight, or motor control, which were not extraordinarily different in Einstein.

    Diamond wanted to examine two samples of association cortex, parts of the cerebral cortex where information is brought together for analysis and synthesis. [She] also requested samples from Einstein’s inferior parietal cortex, because this region is associated with imagery, memory, and attention. […] If she could discover the secrets that had enabled this brain tissue to produce Einstein’s genius, that discovery could give insight into the cellular mechanisms linking mind and brain. It could tell us how our own brain operates and how the diseased minds of those less fortunate fail.


    After days of carefully measuring and counting cells, Diamond added up the data and compared it with the identical regions from eleven control brains, from men ranging in age from forty-seven to eighty. There was no difference.

    A neuron from the brain of a genius was indistinguishable from one taken from a typical brain. And on average, there were just as many neurons in Einstein’s creative cerebral cortex as in the cortex of men not noted for being unusually creative. But there WAS one difference in the data. The number of cells that were NOT neurons was off the charts in all four areas of Einstein’s brain. On average, the samples from normal brain tissue had one cell that was not a neuron for every two neurons counted, but the samples from Einstein’s brain had nearly twice as many nonneuronal cells, about one for every neuron. The biggest difference was seen in the sample of parietal cortex from the dominant side of Einstein’s brain, the region where abstract concepts, visual imagery, and complex thinking take place.


    For decades these glial cells had been considered little more than mental bubble wrap, connective tissue that physically and perhaps nutritionally supported the neurons, but Einstein’s brain had more. Speculating that glia could be involved in mental function was well outside the conceptual box of most neuroscientists.”

    (excerpts from pp. 4–7, from The Other Brain by R. Douglas Fields, 2011.)

Comments are closed.