Mapping a Brilliant Brain

Maps can show a route around a city, the specifics of a region’s geography, or the thought process behind an idea. Alternatively, maps outline processes and paths within our bodies, like those in a new exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Md. Comprised of photographs and thin slivers of human brain tissue, they illustrate the biology behind one of the most brilliant minds in history: Albert Einstein’s.

The exhibit, “What Can We Learn From A Brain?”, is the first time this view into Einstein’s brain has been available for public viewing. The materials were collected from Dr. Thomas Harvey, who performed an autopsy on Einstein’s brain after his death in 1955. The exhibit is on display until the end of May.


While this is the first time Einstein’s brain is available for viewing, there are plenty of other brain maps that are available for exploration. The National Institute of Health has a program, BrainMaps, which allows users to zoom in and examine cross sections of human and other species’ brains on their computers.

Mapping any brain’s structure and function can have large implications when researching neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Looking at Einstein’s brain reveals some anomalies that could explain his ability to conceptualize something like his theory of relativity, potentially the result of  an increased number of folds.

The exhibit also includes an examination of the brain of Charles Guiteau, who gained notoriety in 1881 by assassinating President James Garfield.

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