Einstein’s EEG

I’ve been reading through neurological atlases of the intracranial electroencephalogram to research the frequencies of oscillations that are characteristic of different brain areas in health and disease.  Today I was able to exhume from a library Epilepsy and the Functional Anatomy of the Human Brain, a 1954 book by the pioneering Wilder Penfield and Herbert Jasper.  In it is an amusing anecdote about the EEG alpha rhythm and Albert Einstein:

‘The familiar blocking of the occipital alpha rhythm when the eyes are opened also occurs when the eyes are opened in a totally darkened room, “trying to see.” (Adrian and Matthews, 1934.)  It is the attention rather than the visual stimulus as such that causes the reaction.  This is shown also in problem solving.  Simple arithmetical operations cause no appreciable effect, but when a difficulty is encountered which requires special concentration, the alpha waves are blocked, to reappear promptly when the problem is solved.

For example, Einstein was found to show a fairly continuous alpha rhythm while carrying out rather intricate mathematical operations, which, however, were fairly automatic for him.  Suddenly his alpha waves dropped out and he appeared restless.  When asked if there was anything wrong, he replied that he had found a mistake in the calculations he had made the day before.  He asked to telephone Princeton immediately.’ [pgs. 189-190]

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The secret to legendary hair? Conductive EEG paste.

I had heard Einstein’s EEG had been recorded (one of the many attempts at trying to understand the mechanism of his genius), but had not heard of any results.  Does anyone out there know if any of his data were ever published?

-David Groppe

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~ by eeging on September 15, 2012.

3 Responses to “Einstein’s EEG”

  1. If you’re looking for some recreational reading, the book Driving Mr. Albert (http://www.npr.org/books/titles/138116272/driving-mr-albert-a-trip-across-america-with-einsteins-brain) chronicles how Einstein’s brain was effectively stolen after he died and chronicles its eventual return to a surviving family member.

  2. Yet another attempt to determine what made Einstein’s brain so special was just published:
    http://www.nature.com/news/snapshots-explore-einstein-s-unusual-brain-1.11836

    This time the researcher is based on newly released photographs of Einstein’s brain. It is worth noting that Einstein had a smaller than average brain. Size isn’t everything.

  3. Carl Friedrich Gauss’s brain has been similarly preserved in hopes of understanding the architecture of genius. So far, it appears that all they’ve found out is that Gauss’s brain was mislabeled as Conrad Heinrich Fuch’s for the past 150 years:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6159/677.1.full
    Apparently, the culprit was likely a careless graduate student.

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