The Neuro-Biology of Genius: A Breakthrough in Neuroscience
Over the past several years, I have extensively analyzed the lives of history’s best known geniuses, including Einstein, Da Vinci, Goethe, Newton, Nietzsche, Picasso, Jobs, Wittgenstein, Edison, Tesla, Rousseau, Mozart, Voltaire and many many others (about 60 historical geniuses).
I have also spent several years studying neuroscience and biology, and many mechanisms involving perception, learning, memory, creativity and other brain functions and their relationships to neuronal activity.
Furthermore, the nature of my investing-related work requires me to deeply analyze CEOs, including Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and investors including Ray Dalio, Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn, Bill Gross.
So this research is based on years long, behavioral and psychological observations combined with deep, neuro-biological studies.
The groundbreaking finding from that research is that most of history’s best known geniuses had either unusually operating Mast Cells or unusually operating Astrocytes, or both!
And it is very likely that history’s biggest geniuses had both, unusually operating Mast Cells and Astrocytes, and hence had simultaneous, stable mutations on both of these Cell types.
These mutations are at the core of several Neuro-diversities including Dyslexia, ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Tourette Syndrome and several others.
The stochastic rarity of combining these Neuro-diversties is what made the brains of the above mentioned geniuses so unusual!
This discussion is just a summary of findings and does not include all data and argumentation, which would go beyond the complexity and scope of this write-up!
First some introductory information:
The brain is comprised of only five cell types in significant distribution:
- Neurons (Main information transporters)
- Oligodendrocytes (Myelinating Cells regulating transmission speed)
- Microglia (Brain’s Immune Cells)
- Astrocytes (Various functions, Housekeeping, Modulation, Energy Supply, etc.)
- Mast Cells (Mainly control of Blood-Brain-Barrier, but also additional functions present within Hippocampus, Hypothalamus, etc.)
This discussion is about Mast Cells and Astrocytes, but let’s briefly and superficially address the other three cell types present in the brain.
Abnormalities/strong mutations involving Neurons and Microglia are unlikely to be biologically stable enough for survival.
Given the concentrated roles Neurons and Microglia play in the brain, abnormalities with these two Cell types would likely interfere with fundamental brain functions and lead to biological instability.
Strong and stable mutations involving Neurons are just theoretically possible from a purely evolutionary perspective.
Strong mutations involving Microglia would likely compromise the brain’s immune function, which has low tolerance for error or even delay.
Strong mutations that involve Oligodendrocytes can sometimes be stable. Since Oligodendrocytes regulate Myelination, this may link Oligodendrocyte mutations (together with other cells) to Epilepsy and Schizophrenia, both of which we will discuss later again.
Yet Mast Cells and Astrocytes are involved in brain’s housekeeping functions and control the cerebrospinal fluid environment, and therefore can have several strong mutations, while still maintaining brain stability.
Mast Cells and Astrocyte mutations can have a wide range, and not all mutations will lead to intellectually and/or creatively exceptional minds.
These mutations can contribute to unusual neuro-dynamics, which psychologists and psychiatrists have classified under different Neuro-pathologies and Neuro-developmental conditions.
Some of these are Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Asperger Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, Epilepsy and few other neurological conditions.
Although many of these conditions manifest with unusually operating neurons in specific regions of the brain (like mirror neurons in autism), the root cause for that manifestation seems to be neuro-developmental and influenced by Mast Cell and Astrocyte operations during early brain development.
Some of these neuro-diversities co-occur frequently, which indicates that they may have shared DNA segments and/or operate through the same cell mechanism.
Most of these neuro-pathologies operate on spectrums and currently have vague boundary definitions. Therefore, oftentimes diagnoses itself is a vague concept. Many people are somewhere on the spectrum for one or two conditions, but at very low levels and not sufficient enough to be considered for a clinical diagnosis. Only cases that have clear, behavioral symptoms are diagnosed.
The word Neuro-diversities is probably a better term to use for these conditions.
My research shows that the total number, specific combination and specific spectrum of these Neuro-diversities is what determines one’s “Genius Level”.
So let’s discuss the two cell types involved, and how mutations with these cells correlate with spectrum conditions and genius.
Strong mutations on Mast Cells can contribute to Dyslexia, ADHD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and some other brain biochemistries (possibly also Tourette Syndrome).
Mast Cell mutations contributing to Dyslexia are dominant among many polymath geniuses including Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Leonardo Da Vinci, Elon Musk, Wolfgang Goethe, Isaac Newton, Richard Branson, Ray Dalio.
Dyslexia also seems to be dominant among many visual and performing artists including Picasso and Dali.
Mast Cell mutations contributing to Bipolar Disorder are dominant in many narrative artist including writers Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Goethe, Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, musicians including Beethoven, and many scientists including Isaac Newton.
Also several of the above mentioned people with creative inclination, including Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Goethe and Leonardo Da Vinci, had co-occurring ADHD, which also operates through Mast Cell mutations.
And regarding OCD, this list would be very long, as you will find very few big geniuses, that do not have an obsessive personality. It is one of the hallmarks of genius!
Strong mutations on Astrocytes can contribute to Asperger Syndrome, Autism and few other brain biochemistries (Schizophrenia and Epilepsy seem to involve Oligodendrocytes mutations in conjunction with Astrocyte mutations).
Astrocyte mutations contributing to Asperger Syndrome seem to be dominant in many specialized geniuses including Bill Gates, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Albert Einstein, Bill Gross, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel and also in many famous mathematicians, including Isaac Newton.
Steve Jobs and Elon Musk also have Asperger’s. Overall Asperger’s is a key component in many geniuses.
Astrocyte mutations contributing to Highly Functioning Autism seem to be dominant in spatial/visual geniuses including Nikola Tesla, Michelangelo, Rodin, Picasso, Woody Allen and in a milder form in Thomas Edison and Charles Darwin.
Astrocyte mutations (in conjunction with Oligodendrocytes) contributing to predisposition to Epilepsy seem to be dominant in military, political and strategic geniuses including Julius Cesar, Napoleon, Lenin, Peter The Great of Russia.
Dostoyevski also had Epilepsy. Interestingly, his military coup did not work out, so he became a writer.
You can see that there are many repeating names. But this is not even the entire story or lineup. The level of repetition is much higher. If we include all cases the list would be full and too long.
Thomas Edison, for example, had at least three neuro-diversities, Dyslexia, Autism and ADD, probably few more. As mentioned above, the total number and specific spectrum of these neuro-diversities determines one’s Genius Level.
It is very likely that all these above mentioned geniuses had strong mutations on both, Mast Cells and Astrocytes, and hence had multiple neuro-diversities at different activity levels!
There could be additional genes involved in a given neuro-diversity, but more importantly the dual-cell-mutation combination and its statistical rarity is what sets history’s biggest geniuses apart!
In the process of combining these neuro-diversities one can generate neuro-profiles, that can be drastically different than just a superposition or sum. This is because these mutations affect early brain development and through their simultaneous bio-chemical states determine early wiring.
So 1+1=X and not 2.
This is because you are not adding the symptoms, you are adding the biochemical states in the cerebrospinal fluid during early brain development.
My findings also show that complimentary neuro-diversities, for example pairings of Dyslexia with Asperger’s, or ADD with Asperger’s or ADD with Autism, or other combinations could be more balancing and maybe much more advantageous.
Interestingly, the pairing Dyslexia and Asperger’s creates a powerful pairing! One could even call it a fundamental genius combination, since it is one frequently occurring in geniuses. ADHD and Asperger’s is another fundamental genius combination.
Dyslexia provides enhanced pattern recognition abilities, enhanced visualization and episodic memory.
Asperger’s provides enhanced attention to details, better logical reasoning abilities and better concentration.
ADHD provides better ideation and creativity, as well as better multi-tasking abilities.
Adding Bipolar Disorder can generate another dimension of creativity, visualization and other enhancements.
Adding OCD generates more intensity, subject obsession and few other things.
Adding Tourette Syndrome gives more artistic and visual processing power.
Adding Borderline Personality Disorder provides an enhanced ability to find relationships between phenomena and also an ability to hyper-focus.
Adding Epilepsy provides deep strategic insights.
Adding Schizophrenia provides big, unusual and divergent thinking
But these are only superficial descriptions and the mechanisms are more complex, especially those involving the mixing of neuro-diversities.
Not all geniuses have the fundamental genius combinations of Dyslexia and Asperger’s or ADD and Asperger’s.
Many writers, musicians, visual artists, political leaders, scientists, businessman and military leaders do not have that combination, and hence can develop more creativity at the cost of accuracy.
And because most of these neuro-diversities operate on a spectrum and have varying activity levels, the most important details are in the activity levels of each neuro-diversity. As there is a favorable range within each spectrum.
Overall, any multi-neuro-diversity adds an additional level of neurological rarity to the system and another variable spectrum degree-of-freedom.
As many of these neuro-diversities are spectrum conditions including Autism, Asperger’s, Dyslexia, ADHD, Bi-polarity, OCD, they vary in expression relative to the activity level of the Mast Cell and Astrocyte mutations. On a genetic level this activity level can be controlled through epi-genetic switches on the DNA.
And since these regulatory genes are physically quantized, the conditions operate on spectrums that seem continuous, but on the fundamental level probably have distinct levels.
In extreme cases of the spectrum the conditions can interfere with brain function, but in moderate ranges and right combinations they can significantly enhance brain function.
These mutations affect early brain development and can generate a more interconnected brain, higher neuron density in some areas, thicker prefrontal cortex, more hippocampus neurogenesis, enhanced memory and concentration, more lateral neuron excitation, broader biochemical volatility and some other systemic differences in brain wiring.
It would take too long to describe how exactly these mutations affect brain development and how they generate these neuro-diversities.
Yet in case of Mast Cells it is related to an overproduction of histamine, serotonin and prostaglandins and also to Blood-Brain-Barrier regulation. And in case of Astrocytes it is related to changes in the Calcium-ion environment, neurotransmitter re-uptake and ATP household.
So the big magic (and the difference between Steve Jobs and Elon Musk) is in the relative activity levels of these spectrum conditions/neuro-diversities, which arise from Mast Cell and Astrocyte mutations.
So here are the top three for Jobs and Musk
Steve Jobs: 1. Dyslexia, 2. Tourette Syndrome and 3. Aspergers
Elon Musk: 1. Aspergers, 2. Dyslexia and 3. ADD
The relative and absolute activity levels of these spectrum neuro-diversities is where the secret and also the answer lies!
Of course these mutations alone are not sufficient for a “genius outcome”, hence one also needs sufficient “general intelligence”.
Here I am using “general intelligence” as a vague conceptual word-placeholder for Neuronal biochemical characteristics and Oligodendrocyte myelination dynamics. These Neuronal and Oligodendrocyte processes operate on a continuum and affect overall Neuronal coordination. In this regard any additional “general intelligence” is useful.
These two dynamics also contribute to setting the system’s initial conditions.
As with any system’s development, the brain’s development depends on initial conditions and all environmental stimuli (which means all life experiences).
So all life experiences will shape the brain’s wiring and many outcome related factors.
But the neuro-biological, initial conditions setup early development and early wiring and structure.
And these Mast Cell and Astrocyte mutations allow early on for an unusual brain biochemistry and development, and therefore an unusual way of thinking about, capturing and processing the world.
We should also keep in mind that there is a difference between presenting symptoms and the effect these neuro-diversities have on early brain development. The former is observable and the latter may not be as easily assessed or quantified but could play a big role.
It seems that Mast Cells and Astrocytes are the Cells that allow for “strong yet stable” brain mutations, and for evolution to create and maintain new and unusual types of brain biochemistries.
Reality is complex and not fully capture by any one individual, or the entire human collective. Therefore, any drastically new way of capturing and processing the world can make a difference and seems to be at the core of these above mentioned geniuses.
Calling these neuro-diversities abnormalities is actually not a correct description.
One could also call them necessary Genius-parameters, if they occur in the right combinations and are moderately active on the spectrum.
The most important factor however is that Mast Cell and Astrocyte combination of at least one mutation on each cell type, that makes a big difference!
This dynamic has deep evolutionary roots, which would take too long to describe in this article.
Evolution always tries new gene combinations that could be fitter to survive, but some of them may have co-evolved to generate these types of coupled phenomena.
In the process, if these new gene combinations significantly affect both Mast Cell and Astrocyte operations, then evolution creates a rare brain.
It is possible that throughout history there have been some geniuses, who had causes for their unusual brain abilities that are not just tied to Mast Cells and Astrocytes. These could be neuro-diversities that involve additional genes/cells.
For example Tourette Syndrome is a more multi-gene neuro-diversity and present in Mozart, Kurt Cobain, Karl Lagerfeld, and Billie Eilish (also milder in Steve Jobs).
Then there is Schizophrenia present in John Nash, Franz Kafka, possibly Karl Marx and several others. Einstein’s son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, so it is likely that Einstein also had Schizophrenia at lower spectrum. Schizophrenia seems to involve Oligodendrocytes.
And lastly there is ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) present in Stephen Hawking, Lou Gehrig and Stephen Hillenburg. Maybe ALS is one of the few genius parameters tied to Microglia, since ALS at its high spectrum has a strong neurodegenerative effect.
These neuro-diversities have more complex mutation patterns and have been observed in some geniuses. This dynamic I haven’t fully understood yet.
Yet my research shows that most of history’s well known geniuses had both Mast Cell and Astrocyte related “strong yet stable” mutations!
In particular, the combination Dyslexia and Asperger’s seems to be common among geniuses.
The combination ADD and Asperger’s is common in many business magnates.
Another more powerful and somewhat less common neurological combination is Dyslexia, Autism and ADD.
Then there is the artistic genius with ADD, OCD, Tourette Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder.
But there are several combinations.
Biology just adds more degrees of freedom to the system with each neuro-diversity, while each intensity is modified by epigenetics.
The reason these spectrum conditions behave differently from other neurological conditions is because they are rooted in the brain’s environmental conditions (cerebrospinal fluid) and not just neuron-specific operations. So the degree of activity for each neuro-diversity generates a distinct environmental condition and different manifestation for each person’s spectrum.
So imagine a model profile with many degrees of freedom, each on a scale from 0 to 10. Moderate values present an advantage, and beyond a certain activity level become a disadvantage. As long as you are below 5, you mostly have advantages and don’t feel the adverse effects.
Because these conditions are environmental and systemic, they can enhance some parts of the brain, while at the same time adversely affecting other parts (depending on the activity level). And oftentimes we only notice the adverse effects once they become severe enough, while the enhancements are overall more difficult to capture. But they both are present and variable with spectrum activity level.
This is probably why there is something like a savant syndrome.
As the saying goes, your biggest weakness can also be your biggest strength or vise-versa.
Let’s illustrate a full profile to clarify our model’s structure (one could also name the biggest strength and the biggest weakness associated with each neuro-diversity, but maybe later) :
Borderline Personality Disorder
And together with other cell involvements:
Epilepsy (Possibly Oligodendrocytes involvement)
Schizophrenia (Possibly Oligodendrocytes involvement)
ALS (Possibly Microglia involvement)
So this system has about 10 degrees of freedom and can generate many different combinations at many different activity levels. Which then can create many different types of brain wirings.
Most geniuses have 5 to 6 dimensions active. Someone like Nietzsche or Newton probably have 7 or 8 active.
So the number of these dimensions determines the Genius Level of a brain, since it increases the total number of exceptional abilities that the person has.
The additive effect of these parameters is not linear but somewhat super-linear/exponential. Usually after five genius parameters the effect takes off exponentially.
This is because many parameters can be synergistic and can amplify each other and the effect can also compound throughout the brain’s wiring, development and lifelong evolution.
Let’s briefly discuss statistical prevalence data for the neuro-diversity combination that is most common among geniuses.
Dyslexia and Asperger’s:
The population prevalence for Dyslexia is about 15%.
The population prevalence for Asperger’s is about 0.25% (Asperger’s is a key ingredient in many geniuses).
If these genetic mutations were fully independent from each other, it would generate a combined prevalence of 0.0375%, which means about 1 in 3000 people would have this combined neuro-diversity /neuro-profile!
This seems to be a high prevalence considering the rarity of genius.
There are many reasons for this, including that this is for the most common neuro-profile with just two degrees of freedom. After about five mutations the Genius outcome become more significant and noticeable.
As one adds additional dimensions like ADHD, OCD, Tourette Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Epilepsy, Schizophrenia and while modifying spectrums along the way, one can create profiles that resemble Napoleon or Tolstoy or Da Vinci.
With each additional dimension the overall prevalence will decrease by about one or two orders of magnitude, because many of these neuro-diversities have prevalence ranges between 1–10%.
Also this prevalence does not consider the favorable range restrictions for each spectrum. The spectrum range for a favorable outcome is constrained to a certain potion of the overall neuro-diversity spectrum.
Evolution could increase overall spectrum range, but at some point there will be a biological tradeoff between genius and wellbeing, since our body operates as a system.
And lastly the above prevalence number does not include the additional, yet important restrictive continuum of “general intelligence” acting through Neuronal processes. A minimum level of “general intelligence” is required for correct interpretation of events and phenomena.
This additional constrain acts on all neuro-profiles and constraints the overall observance of geniuses.
I want to end this article with a quote from someone who has significant experience with geniuses, Elon Musk’s ex-wife Justine Musk. She has said:
“They are dyslexic, they are autistic, they have ADD, they are square pegs in round holes, they piss people off, get into arguments, rock the boat, laugh in the face of paperwork.”
If her quote were to say, they are dyslexic, autistic and ADD at the same time, then she would be describing someone like Thomas Edison.
My research findings show that there is a real, biological connection between all these brain conditions and genius, and that connection acts through “strong yet stable” mutations on Mast Cells and Astrocytes.
In abstract, evolutionary terms, Mast Cell and Astrocyte mutations are the brain’s somewhat rare, highly variable, yet stable degrees-of-freedom, that are behind these neuro-diversity spectrum conditions.
In a much bigger picture, these sometimes individually disadvantageous conditions have survived evolutionary pressure, because in combination and in moderation, they give rise to genius!
And to some of history’s biggest geniuses, including Da Vinci, Einstein, Jobs, Musk, these simultaneous mutations on Mast Cells and Astrocytes are sources to new perspectives into our complex reality!
If you liked this article, here is a related article about discussing and protecting the human rights of geniuses.
Many geniuses face significant discrimination and harm throughout their lives for being different. And many succumb from that violence at a young age and we do not hear about them.
Since I am a dyslexic, I am prone to spelling and grammar mistakes. Hopefully it does not distract from the substance of the article.
Thank you for reading this article :)