Nourishment for our Brains

This is from the i paper, an obituary for Marian Diamond Neuroscientist 11/11/1926 – 25/7/2017. Her work has huge implications for how our society is changing:

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, has died aged 90. …

Her groundbreaking research on rats found that the brain can improve with enrichment, while impoverished environments can lower the capacity to learn.

“Her research demonstrated the impact of enrichment on brain development – a simple but powerful understanding that has … changed the world, from how we think about ourselves to how we raise our children,” said George Brooks, a professor of integrative biology and Diamond’s colleague at UC Berkeley. Dr Diamond showed anatomically, for the first time, what we now call plasticity of the brain. In doing so she shattered the old paradigm of understanding the brain as a static and unchangeable entity that simply degenerated as we age.”

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 was born Marian Cleeves in Glendale, California, the youngest of 6 children of Montague Cleeves, an English doctor, and Rosa Wamphler Cleeves, a high school Latin teacher. She gained her bachelor’s degree at Berkeley, before studying at Oslo, Harvard and Cornell universities before taking up a teaching post at Berkeley, where she remained for the rest of her career.

In 1950 she married nuclear chemist Richard Diamond and they had 4 children. ///the couple divorced in 1979 and she married fellow neuroscientist Arnold Scheibel in 1982, ho predeceased her by 3 months.

She became famous in 1984 when she examined preserved slices of Einstein’s brain and found that it had more support cells than the average person’s brain.

In other work,Diamond demonstrated that the structural arrangements of the male and female cortices is significantly different and can be altered i the absence of sex steroid hormones. On the Berkeley campus, she was known for walking to her popular anatomy classes carrying a flowered hatbox containing a preserved human brain.

Diamond, a keen artist and sportswoman throughout her life, encouraged activities, both mental and physical, to enrich the brain, and continued to conduct research and teach until 2014 when she retired at the age of 87.

“If you’re going to live life, you’ve got to be all in”, she said in the 2016 documentary film about her work, My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr Marian Diamond.

She is survived by her 4 children.

This shows the importance of sport, the arts, and curiosity in its widest sense in the education of children, but also in the quality of life for all of us. Dr Diamond didn’t just study and teach, she lived a full and active life, so was living proof of the importance of her work.

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