Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dr. Sandra F. Witelson and Einstein's Brain

There's a good article in the New York Times about Dr. Witelson and her collection of brains:
A Hands-On Approach to Studying the Brain, Even Einstein’s
By SIOBHAN ROBERTS

HAMILTON, Ontario — Standing in her vaultlike walk-in refrigerator, Sandra F. Witelson pries open a white plastic tub that looks like an ice cream container.

There, soaking in diluted formaldehyde, is a gleaming vanilla-colored brain: the curvy landscape of hills and valleys (the gyri and sulci) that channeled the thoughts of the late mathematician Donald Coxeter, known as the man who saved geometry from near extinction in the 20th century.

“His brain is amazingly plump,” Dr. Witelson says. She ought to know.

Here at McMaster University, where she is a neuroscientist with the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, Dr. Witelson has a collection of 125 brains. They are all from Canadians: business people, professionals, homemakers, and blue- and white-collar workers.

. . .

It was Dr. Witelson’s 1999 study of Albert Einstein’s brain that made headlines by revealing some remarkable features overlooked by other neuroscientists: the parietal lobe, the region responsible for visual thinking and spatial reasoning, was 15 percent larger than average, and it was structured as one distinct compartment, instead of the usual two compartments separated by the Sylvian fissure.

Dr. Witelson is continuing her analysis of Einstein’s brain, but with a histological study, probing features of the cellular geography in the parietal lobe, like the packing density of his neurons.
Read more!

Jim Ross for The New York Times

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