Einstein's Genius Linked to Well-Connected Brain Hemispheres
The right and left hemispheres of Einstein's brain were uniquely well-connected.
Posted October 5, 2013 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
The debate over right brain-left brain lateralization has raged on for decades. A 2013 study found Albert Einstein's brilliance may be linked to the fact that his brain hemispheres were extremely well-connected. The ability to use right-brain creativity and left brain logic simultaneously may have been what made Einstein a genius.
The part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres of the brain is called the corpus callosum. It contains a bundle of neuronal fibers found in humans and other higher-order mammals that allow the two hemispheres to talk to one another.
The new study, "The Corpus Callosum of Albert Einstein's Brain: Another Clue to His High Intelligence," was published in the journal Brain. The research was led by Dean Falk who is an evolutionary anthropologist at Florida State University. Falk and her colleagues found that Albert Einstein had more extensive connections between certain parts of his cerebral hemispheres compared to both younger and older control groups.
The study was led by Weiwei Men of East China Normal University. Men has created a revolutionary technique allowing researchers to explore the “internal connectivity” of Einstein’s brain via the corpus callosum, for the first time. "This technique should be of interest to other researchers who study the brain's all-important internal connectivity," Falk said.
According to Falk, "This study, more than any other to date, really gets at the 'inside' of Einstein's brain," Falk said. "It provides new information that helps make sense of what is known about the surface of Einstein's brain." Using their new method, the team was able to determine the relative thickness of various subdivisions throughout the full length of the corpus callosum.
The researchers found differences in thickness which were then color-coded to provide the research group with an approximation for the number of neurons stretching between the left and right hemispheres. A thicker corpus callosum suggests that there are a greater number of neurons. Interestingly, different regions of the corpus callosum are implicated in a variety of special functions. For example, neurons situated at the front of the corpus callosum are involved in movement of hands, while neurons running along its backside are thought to be implicated in mental arithmetic.
It’s no coincidence that Einstein was a genius physicist and a master violinist. After having been inspired by Mozart music at age 13, he began to practice the violin religiously. More and more studies are beginning to link musical training and improved cognitive function. Practicing an instrument engages all four hemispheres of your brain and makes them more well-connected.
“I Thought of It While Riding My Bicycle”
Albert Einstein loved to take long walks and ride his bicycle around Princeton. He once said of E=mc2, “I thought of it while riding my bicycle.” If you look at the daily routines of creative greats there is a strong link between some type of bi-pedal aerobic motion that engages all four brain hemispheres that leads to Eureka moments and creative breakthroughs. This is a topic I will be exploring in my next book titled, Superfluidity.
Falk and her colleagues reported on uncommon features of Albert Einstein’s brain when images were first released in 2012. By analyzing autopsy photographs, the team was able to visibly identify features of Einstein’s brain that could be fundamental to the man’s intellect. They found greater intricacy and deep grooves across certain regions of his brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex, the visual cortex, and the parietal lobes.
The prefrontal cortex is thought to be the seat of both critical and abstract thinking, decision-making and expression of personality traits. The parietal lobe is involved in sense and motor function. Interestingly, Falk’s group found that the somatosensory cortex, which receives sensory input information, was also increased in magnitude in an area that corresponded to Albert Einstein’s left hand.
In a Psychology Today blog title, “Are Lefties More Likely to Become Champions and Leaders?” I discuss the role that handedness plays in linking up the left brain-right brain. The conclusion is that ideally, you want to create symmetry and become as close to ambidextrous by fortifying the link between the right brain-left brain of both the cerebrum and the cerebellum.
Conclusion: Left Brain-Right Brain Is Only Half the Stor
Over the past few years, I have had my antennae up for scientific research exploring the interconnection between all four brain hemispheres. I was excited this morning to wake up and see this new study on the link between Albert Einstein’s genius and his well-connected brain hemispheres.
My father, Richard Bergland, was a neuroscientist and neurosurgeon who wrote a book called The Fabric of Mind (Viking). He believed that the vermis — which is the link between the two hemispheres of the cerebellum – is hugely important in the communication of the cerebellar hemispheres. He also believed that the midbrain — which connects the cerebrum (up brain) to the cerebellum (down brain) — is the gateway for keeping a line of communication simultaneously flowing between all four brain hemispheres.
These are very exciting times for neuroscientific research on the interconnection between brain hemispheres. At this point in time, much of this research is still theory and conjecture. Therefore, it is important to look at the daily habits of people who have maximized brainpower so that you can emulate their lifestyle choices and make your brain hemispheres more well-connected, too.
If you'd like to read more on these topics please check out my Psychology Today blogs: "Why is Dancing Good for Your Brain?", "The Neuroscience of Madonna's Enduring Success", "The Right Brain Is Not the Only Source of Creativity."