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3D printed gel brain helps scientists understand the development of folds

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — Researchers at Harvard University created a 3D gel brain model to understand how a brain develops its folds. The study was published in scientific journal "Nature Physics" and conducted by a team at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Not all species have folded brains. Humans, cats, dogs, whales and elephants are just a few that do. The folds are developed on the surface of the brain, on the area known as the cortex. The cortex is where most of the actual thinking takes place. It is only about 3.4mm thick. To maximize surface area in a relatively fixed space — the skull — thereby increasing the amount of cortex on a brain, it is believed that the brain has evolved folds. But how folds develop were a mystery, until now. The team at Harvard printed a 3D gel model of a fetal brain, one that is still smooth and unfolded. The model was then coated in a layer of elastomer gel to replicate the cortex. Next, it was immersed in a solvent causing it to swell relative to the deeper regions. Within minutes, compression led to the formation of folds, ones similar to a real human brain. The model was created based on an MRI brain scan of a 22-week-old fetus, just before the brain usually develops folds. The end result, matched the shape and grooves usually found in a typical 34-week-old human brain. The results suggest that the folds are caused by physics whereby the outer portion grows faster than the rest and crumples. Another explanation could be that biochemical signals might trigger expansion and contraction in particular parts of the cortex or that the folds arise because of stronger connections in certain areas. While the study has opened new avenues towards understanding the human brain, for the scientific community, this is just the start. ----------------------------------------­­--------------------- Welcome to TomoNews, where we animate the most entertaining news on the internets. Come here for an animated look at viral headlines, US news, celebrity gossip, salacious scandals, dumb criminals and much more! Subscribe now for daily news animations that will knock your socks off. Visit our official website for all the latest, uncensored videos: Check out our Android app: Check out our iOS app: Get top stories delivered to your inbox everyday: Stay connected with us here: Facebook Twitter @tomonewsus Google+ Instagram @tomonewsus

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