Can looking into the nature of Einstein’s brain help us understand why he was so mathematically-minded? The doctor who autopsied Einstein in 1955 saved his brain and has been researching it for decades.
A team of neuroscientists discovered in 1999 that Einstein’s inferior parietal lobule, a region associated with math ability, was about 15% larger than normal.
However, this doesn’t mean math skills are set at birth. In a more recent study, researchers found that the more years someone works as a mathematician the larger his or her inferior parietal lobule becomes. This suggests the inferior parietal lobule is like a “math muscle” and the more it is worked out the larger it gets. Einstein probably just worked his out more than the rest of us.
Similar findings exist in other fields. Expert cab drivers have significantly larger hippocampi than novices. The hippocampus is linked to spatial memory.
World-class musicians have more neurons in their cerebellum, an area related to coordination and motor skills, than regular musicians.
Your late-childhood and early-teenage years are the time when your brain is most able to create these kinds of changes. For instance, studies show that the hours a musician practices during these years are the most important at predicting ability later on.
However, at any time in your life you can literally alter the physical structure of your brain to gain new skills. Especially by taking advantage of the science of brain-building.
In his new book, Peak: Secrets from the new Science of Expertise, psychologist Anders Ericsson discusses how the right kind of practice can make you an expert at just about anything.
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