Marian Diamond, one of the founders of modern neuroscience, passed away in July 2017. She was 90.
Diamond is mostly known for her investigations of Albert Einstein’s brain. After receiving four preserved slices of the physicist’s brain in 1984, she discovered that it contained an uncommonly high number of glia, cells that were once believed to merely be supporting structures in the brain.
Marian Diamond’s contribution to neuroscience
• Born on 11 November 1926, Marian Diamond was a professor emerita of anatomy at the University of California, Berkeley.
• She had published research into the neuroanatomy of the forebrain, notably the discovery of the impact of the surrounding environment on brain development, differences between the cerebral cortex of male and female rats, and the link between positive thinking and immune health.
• After graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1948, she spent a summer at the University of Oslo, Norway before returning to Berkeley for her graduate studies, the first female graduate student in the department of anatomy.
• Her doctoral dissertation thesis Functional Interrelationships of the Hypothalamus and the Neurohypophysis was published in 1953.
• She earned her PhD degree in human anatomy.
• She was the first woman science instructor at Cornell University where she taught human biology and comparative anatomy.
• During the 1960s, she joined an ongoing research project with psychologists David Krech, Mark Rosenzweig, and chemist Edward Bennett, as a neuroanatomist.
• She was a pioneer in anatomical neuroscience. She produced the first scientific evidence of anatomical neuroplasticity in the early 1960s. At that time, the scientific consensus was that the nature of your brain was due to genetics and was unchangeable and fixed. However, she showed that the structural components of the cerebral cortex can be altered by either enriched or impoverished environments at any age, from prenatal to extremely old age. These paradigm-changing results, published in 1964, helped to launch modern neuroscience.
• In early 1984, she received four blocks of the preserved brain of Albert Einstein from Thomas Stoltz Harvey. Diamond and her associates successfully analyzed both the superior prefrontal and inferior parietal association cortices of the left and right hemispheres of Einstein's brain and compare results with the identical regions in the control base of 11 human, male, preserved brains. From previous analysis of the eleven control brains, the Diamond lab "learned the frontal cortex did have more glial cells/neuron than the parietal cortex." Einstein had more glial cells per neuron than the average male brains of the control group. Importantly, the biggest difference was found in inferior parietal of the left hemisphere of Einstein's brain where the increase in the number of glial cells per neuron was statistically significantly greater than in the control brains.
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