Ispectrum Magazine Ispectrum Magazine #06 - Page 30

Albert Einstein and the Glial Cell Neurones constitute only about 15% of the human brain – the rest of the brain’s volume is taken up by cells known as glial cells. The word ‘glia’ derives from ‘glue’ - they were until quite recently thought to be simply a form of structural material supporting neurones, or a form of neural glue. Recent science has discovered that glial cells play major roles in providing neurones with energy, and have a large number of complex roles in cerebral metabolism. Indeed they are emerging as the real smart brain cells – they monitor and modulate neural transmission and regulate synaptic metabolism. In addition they talk with one another by calcium waves across major brain regions – a kind of cerebral broadband communication system not dissimilar to smartphones. Professor Marion Diamond at the University of Berkeley examined two vital regions in Einstein’s brain, the prefrontal cortex and the 29 inferior parietal region. She found a higher ratio of glial cells to neurones compared with other brains – an index of higher energy processing and of advanced cerebral communication. The ratio of glia to neurones, as opposed to neurone number, is now known to be an index of evolutionary advance. It seems there may be a selective advantage to having a smaller, smarter brain, and that Einstein expressed this. However, modern humans are now rapidly shrinking the brain. This process has been underway for at least a century and has dramatically accelerated in the past half century – since we increased our consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars. The glial cell is at the centre of this toxic and devastating degeneration.