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What a brain, what a life: Marian Diamond, neuroplasticity pioneer, dies at 90

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Mar­i­an Dia­mond, neu­ro­sci­en­tist who gave new mean­ing to ‘use it or lose it,’ dies at 90 (The Wash­ing­ton Post):

Mar­i­an Dia­mond, a path­break­ing neu­ro­sci­en­tist whose research — includ­ing a study of Albert Einstein’s pre­served brain — showed that the body’s three-pound seat of con­scious­ness was a dynam­ic struc­ture of beau­ti­ful com­plex­i­ty, capa­ble of devel­op­ment even in old age, died July 25 at an assist­ed-liv­ing com­mu­ni­ty in Oak­land, Calif. She was 90

Dr. Dia­mond, a pro­fes­sor emeri­ta of inte­gra­tive biol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley, was for decades known on cam­pus as the woman with the hat box. Inside the con­tain­er, dec­o­rat­ed on the out­side with a flo­ral print and car­ried by a bright blue string, was a pre­served human brain.

It was the cru­cial prop for a les­son she spent a half cen­tu­ry teach­ing: that the brain was, as she once wrote, “the most com­plex mass of pro­to­plasm on this earth and, per­haps, in our galaxy.”

Dr. Dia­mond was con­sid­ered a foun­da­tion­al fig­ure in mod­ern neu­ro­science. Cru­cial­ly, she pro­vid­ed the first hard evi­dence demon­strat­ing the brain’s plas­tic­i­ty — its abil­i­ty to devel­op, to grow, even in adult­hood. “In doing so,” her col­league George Brooks said in a state­ment, “she shat­tered the old par­a­digm of under­stand­ing the brain as a sta­t­ic and unchange­able enti­ty that sim­ply degen­er­at­ed as we age.”…

Dr. Dia­mond went on to devel­op a rich the­o­ry of brain plas­tic­i­ty, one that she some­times sum­ma­rized with a phrase more com­mon­ly heard at a gym than a neu­ro­science class­room: “Use it or lose it.” In papers and lec­tures often direct­ed at a wide audi­ence, she out­lined five fac­tors cru­cial to brain devel­op­ment at any age: diet, exer­cise, chal­lenge, new­ness and — per­haps sur­pris­ing for a lab­o­ra­to­ry researcher — love.”

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