It was, without doubt, one of the finest minds of all time. Now scientists have proved that Albert Einstein's brain was not only unique in its ability to process concepts: it was also physically different.
New research comparing the characteristics of Einstein's brain with that of four men of similar age has found remarkable structural differences.
Parts of his brain were found to be larger than those of the others, and he also appeared to have had more brain cells, scientists have found previously.
The brain of the great mathematician and physicist, who died at the age of 76 in 1955, has long fascinated researchers, not least because while Einstein's body was cremated, his brain was saved for scientific study.
The brain has now been found to possess a greater number of glial cells for each neurone, suggesting that Einstein's brain needed and used more energy. As a result it may have generated more processing ability. The job of glial cells is to provide support and protection for neurones.
The density of neurones in Einstein's brain is greater, too, and the cerebral cortex is thinner than the brains to which it was compared.
Einstein's brain also has an unusual pattern of grooves in an area thought to be involved in mathematical skills. It was 15 percent wider than the other brains, suggesting that the combined effect of the differences may be better connections between nerve cells involved in mathematical abilities.
The latest research, due to be published this week, was conducted by scientists in the United States and Argentina.
'Einstein's astrocytic processes showed larger sizes and higher numbers of interlaminar terminal masses,' say the researchers.
Exactly what effects these differences could have is not clear, and the researchers caution that what they found could simply be a sign of ageing.
The researchers also suggest that the structure of Einstein's brain may not have been unique, and that other people may have something similar, but never get the chance to use it.
'Perhaps individuals with 'special' brains and minds are more frequent than suspected. They just may go unnoticed due to socio-cultural conditions or their early potential being cancelled following exposure to unwanted health or child-rearing hazards during gestation and early childhood, or lack of an adequate child-raising environment,'' say the researchers.
And there's hope for us all. The researchers say that the brain structure shouldn't be seen as a marker of intelligence in isolation. 'In a species with a heavily socially moulded brain and mind, such as humans, the full expression of an individual special aptitude depends on multiple genetic and environmental factors.'