Marian Diamond, a neuroscientist who studied Albert Einstein's brain and was the first to show that the brain's anatomy can change with experience, died on July 25 in Oakland, Calif. She was 90. Diamond, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California-Berkeley, became famous in 1984 when she examined preserved slices of Einstein's brain and found it had more support cells than the average person's brain. On campus, she was known for walking to her packed anatomy classes carrying a flowered hatbox containing a preserved human brain. Her groundbreaking research on rats found that the brain can improve with enrichment, while impoverished environments can lower the capacity to learn, reports the AP.
"Her research ... has literally changed the world," said George Brooks, a UC Berkeley colleague. Her subsequent research found that the brain can continue to develop at any age, that male and female brains are structured differently, and that brain stimulation can improve the immune system. She regularly encouraged activities, both mental and physical, that enrich the brain, and she continued to conduct research and teach until 2014, when she retired at the age of 87. She blazed trails along the way: The Washington Post reports she became Cornell University's first female science instructor in 1955. Diamond is survived by four children; her first child's birth happened the same year that she got her doctorate. (Read more obituary stories.)