Chicago: Curious to know what was inside the brain of genius Albert Einstein? Now, it would just cost $9.99 to ‘download’ the brain that revolutionised physics.
A new application that makes detailed images of Einstein’s brain accessible was launched exclusively for the iPad on Tuesday. Sadly, his genius is not included in the app but anyone who's curious about what was in there, that made Einstein who he was, can get a look in.
The iPad application will also allow researchers to peer into the eccentric Nobel winner's brain as if they were looking through a microscope.
A medical museum under development in Chicago obtained funding to scan and digitize nearly 350 fragile and priceless slides made from slices of Einstein's brain after his death in 1955.
"I can't wait to find out what they'll discover," said Steve Landers, a consultant for the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago who designed the app. "I'd like to think Einstein would have been excited."
After Einstein died, a pathologist named Thomas Harvey performed an autopsy, removing the great man's brain in hopes that future researchers could discover the secrets behind his genius.
Harvey gave samples to researchers and collaborated on a 1999 study published in the Lancet. That study showed a region of Einstein's brain — the parietal lobe - was 15 per cent wider than normal. The parietal lobe is important to the understanding of math, language and spatial relationships.
The new iPad app may allow researchers to dig even deeper by looking for brain regions where the neurons are more densely connected than normal, said Dr. Phillip Epstein, a Chicago-area neuroscientist and consultant for the museum.
But because the tissue was preserved before modern imaging technology, it may be difficult for scientists to figure out exactly where in Einstein's brain each slide originated. Although the new app organises the slides into general brain regions, it doesn't map them with precision to an anatomical model.
"They didn't have MRI. We don't have a three-dimensional model of the brain of Einstein, so we don't know where the samples were taken from," said researcher Jacopo Annese of the Brain Observatory at the University of California, San Diego. What's more, the 1-inch-by-3-inch Einstein slides on the app represent only a fraction of the entire brain, Annese said.
Some may question whether Einstein would have wanted images of his remains sold to non-scientists for $9.99.
Proceeds from sales will go to the US Department of Defence's National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland, and to the Chicago satellite museum, which is set to open in 2015 with interactive exhibits and the museum's digital collections.
First Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 16:33