The team compared Einstein’s brain with those of 85 other people and found that the great physicist did indeed have something special between his ears. Although the brain is only average in size, several regions feature additional convolutions and folds rarely seen in others. For example, the regions on the left side of the brain that facilitate sensory inputs into and motor control of the face and tongue are much larger than normal; and his prefrontal cortex — linked to planning, focused attention and perseverance — is also greatly expanded.

“In each lobe,” including the frontal, parietal and occipital lobes, “there are regions that are exceptionally complicated in their convolutions,” Falk says. As for the enlarged regions linked to the face and tongue, Falk thinks that this might relate to Einstein’s famous quote that his thinking was often “muscular” rather than done in words.

Although this comment is usually interpreted as a metaphor for his subjective experiences as he thought about the universe, “it may be that he used his motor cortex in extraordinary ways” connected to abstract conceptualization, Falk says.