The recent book Driving Mr. Albert tells the true story of pathologist Thomas Harvey, who performed the autopsy of Albert Einstein in 1955. After finishing his task, Harvey irreverently took Einstein's brain home, where he kept it floating in a plastic container for the next 40 years. From time to time Harvey doled out small brain slices to scientists and pseudoscientists around the world who probed the tissue for clues to Einstein's genius. But when Harvey reached his 80s, he placed what was left of the brain in the trunk of his Buick Skylark and embarked on a road trip across the country to return it to Einstein's granddaughter.
One of the respected scientists who examined sections of the prized brain was Marian C. Diamond of the University of California at Berkeley. She found nothing unusual about the number or size of its neurons (nerve cells). But in the association cortex, responsible for high-level cognition, she did discover a surprisingly large number of nonneuronal cells known as glia--a much greater concentration than that found in the average Albert's head.
This article was originally published with the title The Other Half of the Brain.