Images Of Einstein’s Brain Available In iPad App

(Image 1)

CHICAGO (AP)
— The brain that revolutionized physics now can be downloaded as an app
for $9.99. But it won't help you win at Angry Birds.

While
Albert Einstein's genius isn't included, an exclusive iPad application
launched Tuesday promises to make detailed images of his brain more
accessible to scientists than ever before. Teachers, students and anyone
who's curious also can get a look.

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. The application will allow
researchers and novices to peer into the eccentric Nobel winner's brain
as if they were looking through a microscope.

“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 percent 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 organizes
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.

Annese
has preserved and digitized another famous brain, that of Henry
Molaison, who died in 2008 after living for decades with profound
amnesia. Known as “H.M.” in scientific studies, Molaison participated
during his life in research that revealed new insights on learning and
memory.

A searchable website with images of
more than 2,400 slides of Molaison's entire brain will be available to
the public in December, Annese said.

“There
will be another Einstein and we'll do it like H.M.,” Annese predicted.
For now, he said, it's exciting that the Einstein brain tissue has been
preserved digitally before the slides deteriorate or become damaged. The
app will spark interest in the field of brain research, just because
it's Einstein, he said.

“It's a beautiful collection to have opened up to the public,” Annese said.

Some may question whether Einstein would have wanted images of his remains sold to non-scientists for $9.99.

“There's
been a lot of debate over what Einstein's intentions were,” museum
board member Jim Paglia said. “We know he didn't want a circus made of
his remains. But he understood the value to research and science to
study his brain, and we think we've addressed that in a respectful
manner.”

Paglia said the app could “inspire a whole new generation of neuroscientists.”

Proceeds
from sales will go to the U.S. Department of Defense's National Museum
of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Md., and to the Chicago
satellite museum, which is set to open in 2015 with interactive exhibits
and the museum's digital collections.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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