Mar­ian Di­a­mond; neu­ro­sci­en­tist

Woonsocket Call - - Region/obituaries - By HAR­RI­SON SMITH

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, Cal­i­for­nia. She was 90.

A daugh­ter, Ann Di­a­mond, con­firmed her death but did not know the cause.

Di­a­mond, a pro­fes­sor emerita of in­te­gra­tive bi­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley, was long known on cam­pus as the woman with the hat box. Dec­o­rated on the out­side with a flo­ral print and car­ried by a bright blue string, it con­tained a pre­served hu­man brain, the cru­cial prop for her les­son that the brain was, as she once wrote, "the most com­plex mass of pro­to­plasm on this earth and, per­haps, in our galaxy."

Di­a­mond was con­sid­ered a foun­da­tional fig­ure in mod­ern neu­ro­science. 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."

Her break­through oc­curred in the early 1960s, when — build­ing on the work of psy­chol­o­gist Don­ald Hebb — she be­gan study­ing the brains of lab rats. Rats that were raised alone, in small and des­o­late cages, had more trou­ble nav­i­gat­ing a maze than did rats that were raised in "en­riched" cages, with toys and rat play­mates.

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