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Book Summary: The Brain- The Story of You

Author: David Eagleman

Substory: Omega Sign In Brain

When one of the most famous brains of the twentieth century was examined, Albert Einstein’s brain did not reveal the secret of his genius. But it did show that the brain area devoted to his left fingers had expanded – forming a giant fold in his cortex called the Omega sign, shaped like the Greek symbol  – all thanks to his less commonly known passion for playing the violin. This fold becomes enlarged in experienced violin players, who intensively develop fine dexterity with the fingers of their left hand. Piano players, in contrast, develop an Omega sign in both hemispheres, as they use both hands in fine, detailed movements.

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Albert Einstein and his brain. The brain is viewed from above; the front of the brain is at the top of the picture. The orange shaded region is unusually enlarged – so much so that the extra tissue bunches up into what looks like an upside-down Greek letter omega.

The shape of the hills and valleys in the brain is largely conserved across people – but the finer details give a personal and unique reflection of where you’ve been and who you are now. Although most of the changes are too small to detect with the naked eye, everything you’ve experienced has altered the physical structure of your brain – from the expression of genes to the positions of molecules to the architecture of neurons. Your family of origin, your culture, your friends, your work, every movie you’ve watched, every conversation you’ve had – these have all left their footprints in your nervous system. These indelible, microscopic impressions accumulate to make you who you are, and to constrain who you can become.