Marian Diamond

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Marian Diamond
Marian Diamond.jpg
Born Marian Cleeves
(1926-11-11)November 11, 1926
Glendale, California
Died July 25, 2017(2017-07-25) (aged 90)
Oakland, California
Nationality American
Alma mater
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of Oslo
  • Richard Martin Diamond (1950–1979 div.)
  • Arnold Bernard Scheibel (1982–2017, his death)
  • Catherine Theresa Diamond (1953)
  • Richard Cleeves Diamond (1955)
  • Jeff Barja Diamond (1958)
  • Ann Diamond (1962)
Awards The Distinguished Senior Woman Scholar in America awarded by the American Association of University Women
Scientific career
Fields Neuroanatomy, Anatomy, Education
Institutions University of California, Berkeley
Thesis Functional Interrelationships of the Hypothalamus and the Neurohypophysis (1953)

Marian Diamond (née Cleeves; November 11, 1926 – July 25, 2017) was a pioneering scientist and educator who is considered one of the founders of modern neuroscience. She and her team were the first to publish evidence that the brain can change with experience and improve with enrichment, a paradigm-breaking study that was the first hard data confirming what we now call plasticity in the brain. [2]Her research on the brain of Albert Einstein helped fuel the on-going scientific revolution in our understanding of the roles of glial cells in the brain. [3] Her YouTube Human Anatomy lectures were the second most popular college course in the world in 2010. [4]She was a professor of anatomy at the University of California, Berkeley. Other published research explored differences between the cerebral cortex of male and female rats, and the link between positive thinking and immune health, and the role of women in science.


Early life[edit]

Marian Cleeves was born in Glendale, California to Dr. Montague Cleeves and Rosa Marian Wamphler Cleeves as the sixth and last child in the family. Her father was an English physician and her mother a Latin teacher at Berkeley High School. Diamond grew up in La Crescenta. She was educated with her siblings near home at La Crescenta grammar school, Clark Junior High, Glendale High School and finally Glendale Community College, before going to University of California, Berkeley. She played tennis at Berkeley, earning a letter.[5][6]


After graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1948, Diamond spent a summer at the University of Oslo, Norway before returning to Berkeley for her graduate studies, the first female graduate student in the department of anatomy.[6] Her doctoral dissertation thesis "Functional Interrelationships of the Hypothalamus and the Neurohypophysis" was published in 1953.[7]

During her PhD degree, Diamond also began to teach, and teaching became a lifelong passion that continued well into her eighties. Marian Diamond received her PhD degree in human anatomy.[6] After working as a research assistant at Harvard University between 1952–53, Diamond became the first woman science instructor at Cornell University from 1955-58 where she taught human biology and comparative anatomy. Diamond returned to the University of California, Berkeley in 1960 in the role of lecturer. She joined an ongoing research project with psychologists David Krech, Mark Rosenzweig, and chemist Edward Bennett, as a neuroanatomist.[5][8]

By 1964, Diamond had the data and the first actual evidence in anatomical measurements "showing the plasticity of the anatomy of the mammalian cerebral cortex." These stunning results put brain plasticity on the map and, as Diamond wrote in 2009, "opened the doors for our experiments to follow for the next 37 years."[9][10][5]

UC Berkeley invited Diamond to be an Assistant Professor in 1965, later welcoming her as a full professor, and later Professor Emeritus until her death in 2017. In 1984, came a new and difficult, although desired, challenge to the Diamond lab. Diamond and her associates had the "privilege of access to sufficient tissue from Einstein's brain" to make the first ever analysis of his preserved brain, followed by publication of their research. The 1985 publication of "On the Brain of a Scientist: Albert Einstein" created some controversy in academia over the role of glial cells. However, it also ushered in an exciting new era of interest in neuroglia.[11][12][13]

Personal life[edit]

Diamond married Richard Martin Diamond in 1950 and they had four children: Catherine Theresa (1953), Richard Cleeves (1955), Jeff Barja (1958), and Ann (1962). They divorced in 1979 after which Diamond married Professor Arnold Bernard Scheibel in 1982.[5]

Documentary film[edit]

My Love Affair with the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond[14] is a 2017 award-winning documentary[15][16][17] about Dr. Diamond's life as a pioneering woman of science, her curiosity and passion for the human brain, as well as her research and love of teaching. Produced by Luna Productions, an independent production company in Berkeley CA, founded by filmmakers Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg,[18] this documentary was broadcast on PBS, won numerous film festival awards, and received the Kavli-AAAS Science Journalism Gold Award for best in-depth science documentary of 2017. [19]

Contributions to neuroscience, neuroanatomy, neuroplasticity[edit]

Neuroplasticity: Diamond was a pioneer in anatomical neuroscience whose major scientific contributions have changed forever how we view the human brain. Diamond produced the first scientific evidence of anatomical neuroplasticity in the early 1960s. At that time, the scientific consensus was that the nature of your brain was due to genetics and was unchangeable and fixed. Diamond showed that the structural components of the cerebral cortex can be altered by either enriched or impoverished environments at any age, from prenatal to extremely old age. Her initial anatomical experiment, and replication experiments, with young rats showed that the cerebral cortex of the enriched rats was 6% thicker than the cortex of the impoverished rats based on different kinds of early life experiences. An enriched cortex shows greater learning capacity while an impoverished one shows lesser learning capacity. These paradigm-changing results, published in 1964, helped to launch modern neuroscience.[5][20][21]

Einstein's Brain: In early 1984, Diamond received four blocks of the preserved brain of Albert Einstein from Thomas Stoltz Harvey. Harvey, pathologist of Princeton Hospital at the time of Einstein's death, had removed Einstein's brain during autopsy in 1955 and maintained personal possession of the brain. The fact that the Einstein brain tissue was already embedded in celloidin when the Diamond lab received it meant that their choice of methods of examination would be somewhat limited. However, they were able to successfully analyze both the superior prefrontal (area 9) and inferior parietal (area 39) association cortices of the left and right hemispheres of Einstein's brain and compare results with the identical regions in the control base of 11 human, male, preserved brains. From previous analysis of the eleven control brains, the Diamond lab "learned the frontal cortex did have more glial cells/neuron than the parietal cortex."[22] After many years of research, Diamond and her team had data proving that, in the rat brain, glial cells increased with enriched conditions, but did not increase with age.[23] Diamond and her associates discovered that the big difference in all four areas was in nonneuronal cells. Einstein had more glial cells per neuron than the average male brains of the control group. Importantly, the biggest difference was found in area 39 of the left hemisphere of Einstein's brain where the increase in the number of glial cells per neuron was statistically significantly greater than in the control brains. Astrocyte and oligodendrocyte glial cells were pooled for these results.[13]

Diamond demonstrated that the structural arrangement of the male and female cortices is significantly different and can be altered in the absence of sex steroid hormones.[5]

Diamond also showed that the dorsal lateral frontal cerebral cortex is bilaterally deficient in the immune deficient mouse and can be reversed with thymic transplants. In humans, cognitive stimulation increases circulating CD4-positive T lymphocytes, supporting the idea that immunity can be voluntarily modulated, in other words, that positive thinking can impact the immune system.[5]


  • Council for Advancement & Support of Education. Wash. D.C. award for California Professor of the Year and National Gold Medalist
  • California Biomedical Research Association Distinguished Service Award
  • Alumna of the Year—California Alumni Association
  • San Francisco Chronicle Hall of Fame
  • University Medal, La Universidad del Zulia, Maracaibo, Venezuela
  • Brazilian Gold Medal of Honor
  • Benjamin Ide Wheeler Service Award[24]
  • The Distinguished Senior Woman Scholar in America awarded by the American Association of University Women, 1997.[5]
  • Clark Kerr Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education 2012[25]
  • International House Alumni Faculty Award, 2016[26]
  • Paola S. Timiras Memorial Award for Aging Research from the Center for Research and Education in Aging (CREA)2016[27]
  • Distinguished Teaching Award 1975 awarded by the University of California Berkeley[28]


  1. ^ Diamond, Marian Cleeves. "Marian Cleeves Diamond". In Squire, Larry Ryan. The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography. 6. Society for Neuroscience. pp. 62–94. ISBN 0-12-660301-4. Retrieved 2014-09-24.  Autobiography.
  2. ^ Smith, Harrison (30 July 2017). "Marian Diamond, neuroscientist who gave new meaning to 'use it or lose it,' dies at 90" – via 
  3. ^ Grimes, William (16 August 2017). "Marian C. Diamond, 90, Student of the Brain, Is Dead" – via 
  4. ^ "Top Ten most Popular College Course Lectures On YouTube". 16 April 2010 – via 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Squire, Larry R. (March 2009). The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography Volume 6. Oxford University Press. p. 64. ISBN 9780195380101. 
  6. ^ a b c Holtz, Debra Levi (December 5, 2010). "Marian Diamond - anatomy professor a YouTube hit". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  7. ^ Diamond, Marian Cleeves (1953). "Functional interrelationships of the hypothalamus and the neurohypophysis". University of California, Berkeley. OCLC 14462278. 
  8. ^ Diamond, Marian Cleeves, (1998). Magic Trees of the Mind: How to Nurture Your Child's Intelligence, Creativity, and Healthy Emotions from Birth Through Adolescence. New York: Plume, Penguin Group. pp. 12-16. ISBN 0-452-27830-9 (pbk)
  9. ^ Diamond MC, Krech D, Rosenzweig MR,"The Effects of an Enriched Environment on the Histology of the Rat Cerebral Cortex","J Comp Neurol 1964;123:111-120", Retrieved February 9, 2017
  10. ^ Bennett EL, Diamond MC, Krech D, Rosenzweig MR,“Chemical and Anatomical Plasticity of the Brain”, “Science 1964:146:610-619”; retrieved February 9, 2017
  11. ^ Fields, R. Douglas (2009). The Other Brain: From Dementia to Schizophrenia. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-9141-5
  12. ^ Hamilton, Jon,"Einstein's Brain Unlocks some Mysteries of the Mind","NPR June 2010"; retrieved February 18, 2017
  13. ^ a b Diamond MC, Scheibel AB, Murphy GM Jr, Harvey T,"On the Brain of a Scientist: Albert Einstein","Experimental Neurology 1985;198-204"; retrieved February 18, 2017
  14. ^ "Luna Productions". 
  15. ^ Robert Sanders, "Brain scientist Marian Diamond subject of new documentary" Retrieved August 20, 2016
  16. ^ "Audience Award Best in Fest-RiverRun International Film Festival 2016 Winners & Awards" Retrieved August 20, 2016
  17. ^ "Best Feature Film-American Psychological Association Film Festival 2016" (shown at APA August 6,2016) Retrieved August 20, 2016
  18. ^ "Luna Productions". Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  19. ^ "Winners of the 2017 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards - Science Journalism Awards". 
  20. ^ Diamond MC, Krech D, Rosenzweig MR,"The Effects of an Enriched Environment on the Histology of the Rat Cerebral Cortex","J Comp Neurol 1964;123:111-120", February 6, 2017
  21. ^ Bennett EL, Diamond MC, Krech D, Rosenzweig MR, "Chemical and Anatomical Plasticity of the Brain", "Science 1964:146:610-619", February 6, 2017
  22. ^ Diamond MC,"Why Einstein's Brain?"Retrieved February 18, 2017
  23. ^ Diamond, Marian Cleeves (1988). Enriching Heredity: The Impact of the Environment on the Anatomy of the Brain.New York:The Free Press, A Division of Macmillan, Inc. p.48-49. ISBN 0-02-907431-2
  24. ^ "Benjamin Ide Wheeler Medal". Berkeley Community Fund. Retrieved June 17, 2017. 
  25. ^ "History of the Clark Kerr Award" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 19, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2015. 
  26. ^ "International House 2016 Gala". International House University of California Berkeley. Retrieved 16 August 2016. 
  27. ^ "Award for and Discussion of Dr. Marian Diamond at BAMPFA". The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley. Retrieved 16 August 2016. 
  28. ^ CalHistory. "Distinguished Teaching Awards". Days of Cal Distinguished Teaching Award. Retrieved October 1, 2016.