Insanity of Genius

Nobly reasonable? Infinitely facultative? Angelic and Godly?!
Wow! What a piece of work was Shakespeare!
But was he a genius? Was Bach, Da Vinci, or Einstein?
What do we mean by use of the word genius?

In this, the final of four posts, now well away from the comfort and normalcy of home, we stumble and fall into a broken house of mirrors. Our journey began in a deep contextual fog, of historical, theistic, and social themes; tricky navigation to be sure! A stiff wind carried us on to explore the isles of intelligent behavior – Cellular Biology and Micro Anatomy, and on, to re-animate matter via reunification of matter and mind.
Currently, there is melancholia.

Archetype of the mad genius
“Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, such shaping fantasies, that apprehend more than cool reason ever comprehends. The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact […]”

Long before Shakespeare’s time, Book XXX of the Aristotelian Problematanote 1, titled “Problems Connected with Prudence, Intelligence, and Wisdom”, here translated by Forster (1927), seems to have been the first written work to definitively associate exceptional cognitive ability with mental illness. It begins by asking “Why is it that all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts are clearly of an atrabilious temperament, and some of them to such an extent as to be affected by diseases?” Examples are made of three Heros, citing the epileptic affliction and atrabilious temperament of Heracles, the insanity of Ajax, and the self-imposed exile and isolation of Bellerophon.

Northwood (1989), analytically interprets Book XXX, rendering “the moderate overheatedness of melancholic geniuses ensures that they are more susceptible to bouts of imaginative fancy – i.e. divergent thinking – but this [disposition] is not always present, nor […] would it be beneficial if it were. The ideas and fancies would remain undeveloped if the melancholic were not then able to look at these ideas [rationally] with a critical eye – a sober eye – a cool eye. As one hears of the creative process today, there are moments of inspiration and moments of rational analysis, editing, criticism. It is only the melancholic who will naturally have both.”

She points out that “a temperament that is full of change” refers to mood swings…
… which in today’s culture would likely be diagnosed as bipolar disorder.

“That dramatic mood swings are beneficial is an idea that is alien to late 20th century psychiatry; it is an illness to be cured by pills and electric shock treatment.”

“Greek authors believed that external climatic variability (with the result of internal character variability) was extremely beneficial to one’s character, and that it led to intellectual outstandingness.” – a fascinating thought, if taken from our modern perspective of global climate change.

“In ancient Greek theories of health, it was the equal balance or mixing of the humors or elements (i.e., the isonomic mean) that comprised the ideal healthy state.”

The ancient humors might, in modernity, be viewed metaphorically. Perhaps as good-humor, dry-humor, bad-humor, and dark-humor?

The Problema XXX describes “a form of melancholic constitution that is both 1) itself characterized as a mean, and 2) thought to lead to intellectual outstandingness. This is theoretically problematic since the melancholic constitution was by definition a constitution in which there was a natural preponderance of black bile. Thus, there appear to be two incompatible means that are descriptive of the ideal in ancient Greek medicine: the isonomic mean that underlies the ideal healthy state, and the melancholic mean that describes the melancholic who is capable of greatness”.1

“Men differ in appearance not because they possess faces but because they possess certain kinds of faces, some handsome, others ugly, others with nothing remarkable about them (those, that is, who are naturally ordinary); so those who possess an atrabilious temperament in a slight degree are ordinary, but those who have much of it are quite unlike the majority of people. For, if their condition is quite complete, they are very atrabilious; but, if they possess a mixed temperament, they are men of genius.

If they neglect their health, they have a tendency towards the atrabilious diseases, the part of the body affected varying in different people; in some persons epileptic symptoms declare themselves, in others apoplectic, in others violent despondency or terrors, in others over-confidence, […]. The force which gives rise to such a condition is the temperament according as it contains heat or cold. If it be cold beyond due measure, it produces groundless despondency; hence suicide by hanging occurs most frequently among the young, but sometimes also among older men.

Since it is possible for an abnormal state to be well attempered and in a sense [become] a favourable condition, and since it is possible for the condition to be hotter and then again cold [i.e. ‘bipolar’], when it should be sonote 2 the result is that all atrabilious persons have remarkable gifts, not owing to disease but from natural causes”.2

Probably referring to Problemata, Andreasen (2014), states “The first attempted examinations of the connection between genius and insanity were largely anecdotal.” He continues by describing the work of an Italian physician, Cesare Lombroso, who in 1891 published “The Man of Genius”: “a gossipy and expansive account of traits associated with genius – left-handedness, celibacy, stammering, precocity, and, of course, neurosis and psychosis and he linked them to many creative individuals, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Sir Isaac Newton, Arthur Schopenhauer, Jonathan Swift, Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, Charles Baudelaire, and Robert Schumann. Lombroso speculated on various causes of lunacy and genius, ranging from heredity to urbanization to climate to the phases of the moon. He proposed a close association between genius and degeneracy and argued that both are hereditary”.3

Correlative genetics of madness, creativity and g
A genetic study by Kéri et al (2009), suggests that “there is an association between psychotic features and creativity, which may explain the retention of genes related to psychosis.”, and reports Neuregulin 1 as a candidate gene for psychosis, but it also affects neuronal development, synaptic plasticity, glutamatergic neurotransmission, and glial function. The promoter of this gene exists as a polymorphism:
– C/C –> “lowest creativity scores”;
– C/T –> “middle-ranking scores”;
– T/T –> “highest creativity scores”.

“[…] the biologically relevant promoter polymorphism of the neuregulin 1 gene has a significant impact on creativity: The T/T genotype, which has previously been shown to be related to psychosis risk and altered brain structure and function, was associated with the highest creativity scores when lifetime achievement or laboratory scores of creative thinking were taken into consideration. […] The prefrontal cortex is important in cognitive inhibition and creativity, and there is evidence that the promoter polymorphism of the neuregulin 1 gene affects the functioning of this brain region. Indeed, it has been reported that the reduction of prefrontal functions [reduced cognitive inhibition, related to schizotypal features] may lead to creative peaks in highly functioning people, even if they are in the presymptomatic stage of severe neurodegenerative illnesses.”

Both Diamond and Witelson concluded that the parietal lobes of Einstein’s brain (parts of the cerebrum primarily concerned with processing sensory information and with spatial orientation) were anatomically unique. They used markedly different methodologies, however: Diamond counted the cells in the cerebral cortex; Witelson studied the brain’s gross anatomy. Diamond compared cell counts of parts of Einstein’s cerebrum with those from former Veterans’ Administration hospital patients. The specimens were stained to distinguish two types of brain cell: neurons and glial cells. In Einstein’s left parietal cortex, Diamond noted a significant increase in glial cells but not neurons. She proposed that the “differential cell counts constituted a potentially meaningful measure of the functional status of the brain” in general, and, in particular, “neuronal:glial ratios in selected regions of Einstein’s brain might reflect the enhanced use of this tissue in the expression of his unusual conceptual powers”.4

“Unfortunately we have [only] one brain of an Einstein. Scientific certainty tends to be confirmed by multiple subjects or experiments, so it is hard to draw definite conclusions from a single specimen, no matter how exceptional”.5

Dwelling on this point, it seems wise to include the critical rhetoric of Hines (2014), who in his approach to the field of studies representing Einstein’s brain, has coined the ironical term neuromythologynote 3, and has discounted the findings of various authors. In particular his criticism is of the propagation of assumed, but not known, meanings of certain phenomena.6 Indeed, the state of current affairs is one of very little knowledge about the physical and anatomical aspects of cognition, less still, if anything at all, is known with certainty.

An epigenetic study by Chorney et al (1998), reported that general cognitive ability ( g ) “presents three challenges for molecular genetic analysis: It is a quantitative trait with a roughly normal distribution; it is multifunctional, involving environmental as well as genetic sources of variance; and its heritability is likely due to groups of genes of varying size and effect, rather than a few genes of major effect.”
– i.e. A small probabilistic effect upon g is more likely affected by groups of genes with interchangeable properties, rather than individual genes with specific properties.

The Chorney study was a search of group phenomena, rather than familial phenomena, proposing to associate g with quantitative trait loci (QTL). The cohort comprised 51 experimental subjects (children scoring high IQ), and 51 control subjects (children scoring average IQ), all Caucasian, living and schooling within a hundred kilometer radius of Cleveland Ohio.

Insulin-like Growth Factor 2 Receptor (IGF2R), and by association Insulin-like Growth Factor 2 (IGF2), are mentioned repeatedly in the QTL for g study. The function of this pair of DNA coded molecules is communication (signal and receiver), and is a necessary part of intercellular (paracrine) vesicle transport, occurring in virtually all tissues. In the central nervous system vesicular trafficking is a mode of volume transmission (VT), introduced in earlier explorations, titled Refraction of the State of Nature and Meta-matricity.

Agnati and Fuxe (2014) say that “so-called exosomes appear to be the major vesicular carrier for intercellular communication but the larger microvesicles also participate. Extracellular vesicles are released from cultured cortical neurons and different types of glial cells and modulate the signalling of the neuronal–glial networks of the CNS. This type of VT has pathological relevance, and epigenetic mechanisms may participate in the modulation of extracellular-vesicle-mediated VT”.7

Molecular model of IGF2R
Molecular model of IGF2

IGF2 appears to be linked to neurogenesis and memory creation, via promotion of survival of hippocampal neurons. That said, the authors are careful to point out that “such QTL’s are not genes for genius; moreover, genius involves much more than genes”. This statement is highly reminiscent of Binet’s point of view, noted in a previous post of this series, titled Quantity of Genius?, in which we learned that Binet emphasized qualitative, as opposed to quantitative measures, and stressed that intelligence was not based on genetics alone; that intellectual development progressed at variable rates, was influenced by environmental factors, and was malleable rather than fixed.

Mindful of lofty historic ideology, and the deep shadow cast by eugenics,
now laden with a hypothetical neuro-glial syncitium;
an heritable, albeit variable effect upon g,
via an indirect (infrastructural) link between allele variation of IGF2 and IGF2R,
possibly modulating the capacity of glial volume transmission in our population…
…does genius stand therein?

Apparently irrelevant to the QTL study, which focussed upon Chromosome 6, the gene for apolipoprotine E (on Chromosome 19) is mentioned in association with late onset Alzheimer’s disease. This I found interesting, in connection with a study of the glia of Einstein’s brain (Colombo, 2006), in which Alzheimer’s disease is also mentioned.

“Comparison between samples of Einstein’s brain with those of four other men, the geometries (parallelism, relative depth, tortuosity) of primate-specific interlaminar glial processes were not individually distinctive. However, Einstein’s astrocytic processes showed larger sizes and higher numbers of interlaminar terminal masses (bulbous endings), which are of unknown significance but known to occur in some cases of Alzheimer’s disease”.16

The dope on cognitive disorganization
In a study linking creativity and psychopathology via dopamine transmission, de Manzano et al (2010), have concluded that highly creative individuals have lower concentrations of a particular type of dopamine receptor (D2) in the thalamus. The study proposes that “a lower D2 [binding potential] in the thalamus may be one factor that facilitates performance on divergent thinking tasks [by decreasing filtering and autoregulation of information flow, and by increasing] excitation of cortical regions through decreased inhibition of prefrontal pyramidal neurons, [thus allowing neuronal networks of the prefrontal cortex] to more easily switch between representations and process multiple stimuli across a wider association range. This state, [of creative bias may increase] performance on tasks that involve continuous generation and (re-)combination of mental representations and switching between mind-sets. […] A decreased signal-to-noise ratio (i.e less signal and more noise) in cortical regions should better enable flexibility and switching between representations; similarly, the associative range should be widened and selectivity should be decreased which might spur originality and elaboration. [However], creative bias may also bring a risk of excessive excitatory signals from the thalamus overwhelming cortical neurotransmission, with ensuing cognitive disorganization and positive symptoms”.9

The national Institute of Mental Health defines positive symptoms as psychotic behaviors not seen in healthy people, often causing the schizophrenic to “lose touch with reality”.

Positive symptoms:
I) Hallucinations – things that a person sees, hears, smells, or feels that no one else can see, hear, smell, or feel. “Voices” are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia. Many people with the disorder hear voices. The voices may talk to the person about his or her behavior, order the person to do things, or warn the person of danger. Sometimes the voices talk to each other.

II) Delusions – false beliefs that are not part of the person’s culture and do not change. The person believes delusions even after other people prove that the beliefs are not true or logical. People with schizophrenia can have delusions that seem bizarre, such as believing that neighbors can control their behavior with magnetic waves. They may also believe that people on television are directing special messages to them, or that radio stations are broadcasting their thoughts aloud to others. Sometimes they believe they are someone else, such as a famous historical figure. They may have paranoid delusions and believe that others are trying to harm them, such as by cheating, harassing, poisoning, spying on, or plotting against them or the people they care about. These beliefs are called “delusions of persecution.”

III) Thought disorders – unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking. One form of thought disorder is called “disorganized thinking.” This is when a person has trouble organizing his or her thoughts or connecting them logically. They may talk in a garbled way that is hard to understand. Another form is called “thought blocking.” This is when a person stops speaking abruptly in the middle of a thought. When asked why he or she stopped talking, the person may say that it felt as if the thought had been taken out of his or her head. Finally, a person with a thought disorder might make up meaningless words, or “neologisms”.note 4

IV) Movement disorders – agitated body movements. A person with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may become catatonic. Catatonia is a state in which a person does not move and does not respond to others.10

Paragon of disorganization
Anderson & Harvey (1996), have suggested that Einstein’s great intellectual abilities were due to higher neuronal density, resulting in a more rapid processing of information.11 Hines (2014) refers to this, commenting that increased neuronal density is in no way indicative of a neuroanatomical basis for superior information processing.6 Yet ecological relationships between neuronal and glial populations, as well as the physiology of biological information processing, remain unclear. Processing speed is relevant, and positively correlated with increased scores on standardized IQ tests. However, Terman’s longitudinal study, showed clearly that higher than average IQ is not a predictor of greater than average life achievement. “intelligence alone doesn’t guarantee achievement”.12

Rapid processing does not seem to be the correct aspect of cognition to use in order to attempt characterization of Einstein’s intellectual achievements. The 20th century’s most famous genius is not reported as having been particularly swift, indeed to the contrary, he has been called “dull-witted”.19

Selemon et al (1998), report that “Overall neuronal density was 21% greater in brains from schizophrenic patients in comparison to normal controls. Significant elevations in neuronal density were observed in layers II, III, IV, and VI. […] In brains from Huntington’s diseased patients, increases in neuronal (35%) and glial (61%) density with substantial cortical thinning (30%) were observed”.13

Most intriguing, is the lack of clear division between the process of ideation in the genius, and the process of ideation in the schizophrenic; both psycho-types are marked by fantastic syntheses.
“I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me.
I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

– Nikola Tesla

In 2006, the Colombo investigation compared the brain of Einstein with those of four healthy “age-matched” subjectsnote 5. This study mathematically defined and compared geometrical features of primate-specific interlaminar glial processesnote 6. No distinctive geometrical characteristics of interlaminar processes were observed, however, Einstein’s astrocytic processes were shown to be greater in number and larger. Some aspects of glial process morphology, specifically the enlarged terminal masses (bulbous endings) were deemed of unknown significance, though the authors did propose the possibility of “a potential increase in the local numbers of glial channels and receptors [representing] – in healthy conditions – a functional upgrading of the cortical neuropil”. In conclusion however, Colombo, et al state “incongruities between the supposedly special structural ‘attributes’ of [Albert Einstein’s] brain and current interpretations of their meaning raise doubts as to the exact contribution of these types of analyses, besides spurring a provocative discussion in scientific and laymen literature. In a species with a heavily socially molded brain and mind, such as human, the full expression of an individual special aptitude depends on multiple genetic and environmental factors – which could cancel or potentiate the former. Perhaps individuals with “special” brains (and minds) are more frequent than suspected. They just may go unnoticed due to sociocultural conditions or their early potential being cancelled [due to environmental factors]”.14

Having been steeped in more recent findings, exposed in the previous post, titled “Anatomy of Genius” one is tempted to propose that the structures defined by Colombo, et al have a function similar to neuronal pre-synaptic terminals (i.e. storage, expression and re-uptake of molecular signaling compounds and trophic factors), and that Einstein’s enlarged glial processes allowed for a greater capacity of conveyance and communication of information – a greater volume of transmission. Or, as proposed by Colombo et al, it may be that by the time of his passing, Einstein’s brain displayed micro-scale degradations, similar to those observed in the infantile brains of Down’s syndrome cases, and in late onset Alzheimer’s disease.16

However, “if we regard an astrocytic domain as an elementary unit of brain that monitors, integrates, and potentially modifies the activity of a contiguous set of synapses, this glio-neuronal unit in human brain [in comparison to rodent brain] contains far-larger numbers of synapses, thus capable of carrying out more complex processing per glio-neuronal unit, than any other species. It is tantalizing to propose that the computational power of cortex increases as a function of its size of astrocytic domains. If so, glio-neuronal-based processing increases the intelligence of primates further than the mere increase in brain size”.16

Quiet spot – neural efficiency hypothesis
Garbner et al (2006) studied the impacts of expertise and intelligence at the neurophysiological level, they tested tournament chess players to determine whether cortical activation is reduced during expert performance. It turned out that activation relating to figural intelligencenote 7, rather than general intelligence, was significantly reduced.

“[Recent] research has provided considerable evidence of the neural efficiency hypothesis of intelligence, indicating lower and more focussed brain activation in brighter individuals. […] Based on numerous findings of negative correlations between participants’ intelligence and the amount of brain activation during cognitive performance it was postulated that intelligence is not a function of how hard, but rather how efficiently the brain works, indicated by a more focussed use of specific task-relevant areas. […] Correlations between measures of [working memory] capacity and intellectual performance, [suggest] that brighter individuals have a larger mental workspace at hand to perform mental operations and are capable of allocating their attentional resources more effectively than less intelligent individuals. […] In line with the neural efficiency hypothesis, participants with higher figural intelligence, displayed a lower amount of cortical activation than the figurally less intelligent participants. […] This finding nicely conforms to previous studies in the framework of the neural efficiency hypothesis, showing that the largest activation differences between lower and higher intelligence participants emerged over the frontal cortices”17

Regarded as being of utmost importance for intellectual functions, are the executive processes (selective attention, inhibition, and mental manipulation of information). Since figurally brighter individuals have been observed displaying lower activation in cortical areas, with no simultaneous increase of activation in other cortical areas, one is tempted to assume that a neurally more efficient brain is functioning in them than in less intelligent individuals, who rely more strongly on the prefrontal cortex. In this light it is rather puzzling to consider the case of verbal IQ, in which increased cortical activation is observed in correlation with verbal tasks, suggesting that verbally brighter individuals display less neural efficiency during task performance.17

My own assumption is that figural processing fundamentally differs from linguistic (verbal) processing; the former being much older and deep-rooted in the tree of life than the latter. A fitting example may be made of the proposed externalized spacial memory of Physarum polycephalum, exposed in the previous post “Anatomy of Genius“. Behaviors such as that of P. polycephalum are considerably closer to the root of the tree of life than is verbal language.

Postmortem paragon
The www is awash with reports suggesting that Einstein was dyslexic and performed poorly in school. However, according to Wolff & Goodman (2001) writing for the foremost repository of Einstein’s works, the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, though there seems little doubt that young Albert was possessed of slightly unusual, even rebellious characteristics, dyslexia and poor scholarship were not among them.

“If dyslexia is defined as a neurological condition which causes problems translating language to thought or thought to language and therefore presents difficulties with reading, writing and spelling, speaking or listening, Einstein can certainly not be diagnosed with this defect.

The strongest argument that Einstein was not dyslexic is that he mastered the German language perfectly and his ability to express himself in writing and speech showed high skills of comprehension, discrimination and precision.

A different aspect may be Einstein’s social behavior. It prompted some specialists place him among those afflicted with autism, or its milder form, a developmental disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Children suffering from AS are characterized as aloof and emotionally detached; their socially inappropriate behavior and their extreme egocentricity prevent them from interacting successfully with their peers. They appear to have little empathy for others and to lack social or emotional reciprocity. Other symptoms include motor clumsiness, non-verbal communication problems, repetitive routines and stereotyped mannerisms and the idiosyncrasy for loud or sudden noises. One of the most interesting aspects of their personality is the “perseveration,” an obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other.

Some of the characterizations of AS described in the paragraph above actually apply well to the young Albert as we know him from Maja’s and Max Talmey’s recollections.

Both Maja and Talmey describe a boy who took little interest in boisterous games and, in general, in his peers, a boy who would concentrate patiently on elaborate constructions with building blocks or playing cards, delve into books and tricky arithmetic problems or play the violin. A sort of glass pane, as he called it many years later, separated him from his fellow human beings. Had such “social phobia” then been classified as a personality disorder, and had his parents and doctors felt the need to ‘heal’ the boy by making him conform to some norm, Albert might not have become Einstein.

Self-sufficiency, autonomy, a certain shyness and an extraordinary power of concentration, are traits that still characterized the adult scientist. He never felt comfortable with the obligation to deliver addresses and speeches and to mingle with people. The man who attracted women “like a magnet attracts filings”, who was not afraid of having more than one love affair alongside his marriage and who stuck by his friends and lovers “in his way”, this man nevertheless considered himself a lone wolf: “I never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart.” Music was the portal into the place where Einstein sealed his emotions in order to avoid dealing with interpersonal relationships.”18

Silberman (2003) reports that Autism is a subset of childhood schizophrenia, and calls Asperger’s syndrome “the engineers’ disorder.” Geneticists call those who don’t fit into the diagnostic pigeonholes “broad autistic phenotypes”.20

This hierarchy, in addition to the meaning associated with the previous image, seems a concise manner of describing Nikola Tesla – a largely uncelebrated genius of the 20th century.

While comforted by the ability to solve intractable problems, our love of science is tinged with apprehension.
An unlikely hero; Sherlock Holmes is callous, arrogant, and shunning of society. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described his character as “a calculating machine”. Holmes is not just a solver of mysteries, but a mystery himself, a superhuman intellect – an artificial intellect? Surely a scientist. The character is a conglomeration of popular stereotypes of the archetypal scientist: solitary, introverted, daring, reckless, slightly inhuman, cruel, obsessive, imaginative and brilliant.

The world Holmes was originally created for was one obsessed with science. The Victorian era saw the birth of Charles Babbage’s own “calculating machine”. Yet fascinatingly, the character is also a recluse, an eccentric bohemian, who relies upon intuition and flashes of insight.

“See the value of imagination, […] We imagined what might have happened, acted upon the supposition, and find ourselves justified. Let us proceed”.20

On occasion Homes abandons cerebral methods altogether, opting instead for good old fashioned fisticuffs “[…] a straight left against a slogging ruffian.” – this I recognize as just plain hard physical work.
He also describes himself as “the most incurably lazy devil that ever stood in shoe leather.” – a sure recognition of neural efficiency!

Cultural apprehension of such characters stems from an irrational fear of not knowing for certain how far one of them might go in the pursuit of truth…21

We had set out to explore, and perhaps help to define genius. While an unambivalent definition is not on the visible horizon, we have reasonably argued that:
Intelligence is a somatic function, and only loosely related with genius;
that a surprisingly strong set of correlations is emerging between genius, creativity, psychosis and other disorders of the brain, linked to information processing; such as bipolar disorder, the dyslexic spectrum, and the autistic spectrum.

Furthermore, it is clear that the phenomena measured by the intelligence quotient, specified by the Stanford-Binet scale, continue to be poorly understood. Rather clearer is that the Stanford-Binet scale is a good predictor of an individual’s aptitude for schooling, ‘in the box’ thought and action, and that the Simon-Binet scale has been thoroughly bastardized in the name of rational money making. The IQ test as we know it today seems to be a reliable manner of identifying Homo economics and the school system, such as it is today, seems a reliable manner of propagating the skill-set of Homo economics.

A short list of characteristics related to genius:
– stubbornness
– single mindedness
– creativity (divergent thinking)
– a willingness to ignore social normalcy
– a willingness to bend and break rules
– decreased dopamine transmission
– (and by association) risk taking and addictive behaviors

We have begun to conceive of neurons, rather than glia, as support cells, and of neuronal networks as extensions of glial networks. Neuronal networks facilitate rapid information transfer and processing, but are created and maintained by slower glia, who create and interpret meaning. There is a metaphor to be seen, of the relationship between machines and humans on the www, and the relationship between neurons and glia in the brain.

It seems intuitively reasonable to pose the following immature hypothesis:
Mediated by greater capacity infrastructure, an increase in volume transmission leads to a greater capacity of subconscious information processing, and thus to greater interpretive power of meaning.

However, there is to date little evidence in support of this set of assumptions, and increases in carrying capacity seem also to render schizophrenic states. Closer to realization, due to imminent testability, is the hypothesis:
Genius is a pathological state.

Indeed, to what extent is Homo economics systematically, by rational and theoretically profitable means, eradicating genius from the nascent cultural milieu?

An important philosophical question presents itself:
Is it in the common good to normalize human behavior?

Bibliography and Notes
Note 1) The Aristotelian Problemata, is most likely a collection of pseudepigraphs, with some portion originating from the Lyseum, where Aristotel taught after retiring from Asia. The Lyseum under Aristotel was nicknamed the Peripatetic school, immortalized during the Renaissance, in a fresco by Raphael, titled Scuola di Atene (School of Athens). The English word perambulate is derived from the Greek περιπατητικός. Scuola di Atene depicts many members of the Peripatetic school standing and walking.
An enlargement of the central area of the fresco portrayes an aged Plato and young Aristotel walking while arguing.

Note 2) According to Aristotelian thinking, geniuses are able to regulate their madness, allowing sometimes for the open associations of creative freedom (i.e. divergent thinking) and at other times for a narrowly focussed, rational and analytical approach to the fruits of free association. The mechanism of this self-regulation is not discussed, or if it is, the subject has escaped me – the text as translated by Forster (1927) makes for difficult reading, presumably due to the many differences of worldview between ancient (Aristotelian) and modern times.

Note 3) It had crossed my mind that the concept of genius may be the myth in reference, though upon reflection, Hines’ meaning in neuromythology is almost certainly synonymous with the type of uncritical collective delusion which I have come to understand as default culture.

Note 4) It is certainly noteworthy that William Shakespeare was a master neologist!

Note 5) Four normal brains and one of an alleged genius, hardly makes for a conclusive study, however this is what is available to us, better than pure speculation.

Note 6) Interlaminar astrocytes are specific to the cerebral cortex of higher primates. Their characteristic peculiarity is a very long single process (up to 1 mm) that extends from the soma located within the supragranular layer to cortical layer IV.15

Note 7) Figural refers to a dimension of J. P. Guilford’s Structure of Intellect as represented by real world objects; environmental aspects. Th e figural dimension is defined as:
visual information perceived through seeing; auditory information perceived through hearing; and kinesthetic information perceived through one’s physical actions.

1) H. Northwood, “The Melancholic Mean: the Aristotelian Problema XXX.1”, (1998), Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy,

2) E.S. Forster et al (translation), “Problemata – Book XXX”, (1927), THE WORKS OF ARISTOTLE, Oxford University Press,

3) N. Andreasen, “Secrets of the Creative Brain”, (2014), THE ATLANTIC,

4) S. Kéri, “Genes for Psychosis and Creativity”, (2009), PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE,

5) F. E. Lepore, “Dissecting Genius: Einstein’s Brain and the Search for the Neural Basis of Intellect”, (2001), Dana Foundation,

6) T. Hines, “Neuromythology of Einstein’s brain”, (2014), Brain and Cognition, Vol. 88, p. 21-25,

7) L. Agnati & K. Fuxe, “Extracellular-vesicle type of volume transmission and tunnelling-nanotube type of wiring transmission add a new dimension to brain neuro-glial networks”, (2014), Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B,

8) M. J. Chorney et al, “A Quantitative Trait Locus Associated with Cognitive Ability in Children”, Psychological Science, Vol. 9, No. 3 (1998), p. 159-166,

9) Ö. de Manzano et al, “Thinking Outside a Less Intact Box: Thalamic Dopamine D2 Receptor Densities Are Negatively Related to Psychometric Creativity in Healthy Individuals”, (2010), PLoS ONE,

10) “Schizophrenia”, (2009), National Institutes of Health,

11) B. Anderson, T. Harvey, “Alterations in cortical thickness and neuronal density in the frontal cortex of Albert Einstein”, (1996), Neuroscience Letters, vol. 210, p. 161-164,

12) M. Leslie, “The Vexing Legacy of Lewis Terman”, (2000), Stanford Alumni,

13) L. Selemon, G. Rajkowska, P. Goldman-Rakic, “Elevated neuronal density in prefrontal area 46 in brains from schizophrenic patients: Application of a three-dimensional, stereologic counting method”, (1998),;2-5/abstract

14) J. Colombo, et al, “Cerebral cortex astroglia and the brain of a genius: a propos of A. Einstein’s”, (2006), Brain Research Reviews, Vol. 52(2), p. 257-263,

15) “Astrocytes”, Network Glia, (sponsored by the Journal) Glia,

16) N. A. Oberheim et al, “Uniquely hominid features of adult human astrocytes”, (2010), vol. 29(10), p. 3276-3287, Journal of Neuroscience,

17) Garbner, Nuebauer, Stern, “Superior performance and neural efficiency: The impact of intelligence and expertise”, (2006),

18) B. Wolff & H. Goodman, “The Legend of the Dull-Witted Child Who Grew Up to Be a Genius”, (2001), The Albert Einstein Archives – The Hebrew University of Jerusalem,

19) S. Silberman, “The Geek Syndrome”, (2003), Wired,

20) A. C. Doyle, “Silver Blaze”, (1892),

21) S. Day, “Sherlock Holmes is the archetypal scientist – brilliant but slightly scary”, (2014), The Guardian,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s