neurosicence

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Dr. Thomas Harvey — The Man Who Removed Einstein’s Brain,

When on April 18th, 1955 the great scientist and icon Albert Einstein passed away at Princeton Hospital in New Jersey, it fell to pathologist Dr. Thomas Harvey to confirm cause of death.  After a brief autopsy Harvey was able to determine that Einstein had died of heart failure.  However it was not Einstein’s heart that Harvey was interested in, but something else.  Without family or hospital permission Dr. Harvey sawed into Einsteins cranium, removing a precious organ that had helped changed the world in the 20th century.  Yes, Dr. Harvey removed Einstein’s brain.

The motivation for removing Einstein’s brain was simple; scientific understanding of what separates geniuses from the rest of us. Such a discovery would be momentous, earning Dr. Harvey Einsteinesque fame, perhaps even a Nobel Prize.  Dr. Harvey preserved the brain and divided it into 240 sections.  He also made several microscope slides of several sections of Einstein’s brain.  After removing Einstein’s brain, he obviously had some explaining to do as he had grossly infringed upon the Einstein family’s rights and turned medical ethics on it’s head.  Dr. Harvey convinced the family that it was all for the better of science.  The family consented to Harvey’s work as long as the results were published in a scholarly manner, free of publicity.

Unfortunately Dr. Harvey was no neuroscientist and after years of studying the brain was unable to discover any meaningful results.  Over time Dr. Harvey morphed from an ambitious scientist to a creepy guy with Einstein’s brain.  After several decades of obsession with the brain his wife divorced him and he was forced to relocate during his studies.  By the 1980’s Dr. Harvey was had to admit that he was in over his head, and began to donate samples to various scientists and researchers.  In 1996 he donated the last bits to Dr. Elliot Kraus. It was then that the brain was subjected to serious scientific examination.

Today researchers have discovered that there are indeed profound differences between Einstein’s brain and the thinking muscle of the average Joe.  Einstein’s brain sported a higher than usual number of glial cells, indicating the Einstein’s neurons used more energy than normal.  The inferior parietal regions of his brain, responsible for  visuospatial cognition, mathematical thought, and imagery of movement, are much larger than the average brain.  

Today Einstein’s brain remains preserved at Princeton Hospital, NJ. Dr. Thomas Harvey passed away in 2007.

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It’s been slow these past few months as I was spending my free time doing some fun projects with the kids. Starting to get back into the groove again. 


Here’s the last few pages, and of course you can see them all on lawcomic.net (or even see them in their full 2800px 300dpi glory by donating $10 or more on my Patreon).

Old Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug Offers New Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease

By repurposing a prescription drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, researchers successfully reversed tau-related symptoms in an animal model of dementia.

The research is in Nature Medicine. (full access paywall)

Research: “Critical role of acetylation in tau-mediated neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits” by Sang-Won Min, Xu Chen, Tara E Tracy, Yaqiao Li, Yungui Zhou, Chao Wang, Kotaro Shirakawa, S Sakura Minami, Erwin Defensor, Sue Ann Mok, Peter Dongmin Sohn, Birgit Schilling, Xin Cong, Lisa Ellerby, Bradford W Gibson, Jeffrey Johnson, Nevan Krogan, Mehrdad Shamloo, Jason Gestwicki, Eliezer Masliah, Eric Verdin and Li Gan in Nature Medicine doi:10.1038/nm.3951

Image: Salsalate successfully reversed these effects in a mouse model of FTD, lowering tau levels in the brain, rescuing memory impairments, and protecting against atrophy of the hippocampus—a brain region essential for memory formation that is impacted by dementia. Image of mouse hippocampus is for illustrative purposes only.