glia:neurons in brain?

Stephen Black sblack at UBISHOPS.CA
Wed Nov 6 21:44:07 EST 1996


On Wed, 6 Nov 1996, kenneth paul collins wrote:

> TonyInskeep wrote:
> > 
> > Does anyone know an estimate(or relatively accurate if possible) for the
> > ratio of glia to neurons in the brain; not concerned w/ spinal cord &
> > PNS.  or a reference would be great, too?!
> 
> The estimate one hears most often is 100 to 1, glia to neurons. However, 
> individual brains vary. Einstein's brain, for instance, was particularly 
> densely populated with glia. ken collins

This is not true. The eminent neuroscientist Marian Diamond did publish a
paper in which she claimed that one particular sample from a slab of
Einstein's brain (from a glass jar in a cider box in Witchita, Kansas--I
love telling people that) had a decreased neuron: glial ratio (therefore 
an increased glial:neuron ratio). However, she didn't adjust her 
statistics for the fact that she tested four ratios, and this was the 
only one significant, so the test is not convincing. No one listens to 
me, however. Especially not Marian Diamond, who ignored me when I wrote to 
her.

While we're on the subject, I have to quote the following (from the New 
Jersey Monthly by way of Science (1978), on reporter Steven Levy's first 
glimpse of the great man's brain in Thomas Harvey's office in Witchita:

"I had risen up to look into the jar, but now I was sunk in my chair, 
speechless. My eyes were fixed upon that jar as I tried to comprehend 
that these pieces of gunk bobbing up and down had caused a revolution in 
physics and quite possible changed the course of civilization. 	THERE IT 
WAS!" (italics in the original).

BTW, the Diamond article may have useful starting references on 
neuron:glial ratios.

References

Diamond, C., Scheibel, A., Murphy, G., & Harvey, T. (1985). On 
   the brain of a scientist: Albert Einstein. Experimental Neurology, 
   88, 198-204.

-----(1978). Brain that rocked physics rests in cider box. Science, 201, 
   p. 696.

-Stephen

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Stephen Black, Ph.D.                      tel: (819) 822-9600 ext 2470
Department of Psychology                  fax: (819) 822-9661
Bishop's University                    e-mail: sblack at ubishops.ca
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