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3D Printing Helps Researchers Discover Why the Human Brain Has a Folded Structure

by • February 1, 2016 • No Comments

3dp_brainfolds_brain_versionDespite its importance, the human brain yet remains a massive mystery to most of medical science. Whilst most researchers believe that the human brain has a folded structure in order to increase the amount of surface area that can fit into the smaller in dimensions volume on the market within of the human skull, the truth is that medical science does not really understand why that structure exists. Whilst that lack of understandledge is not for want of attempting, the medical ethics involved with running experiments on the human brain manufacture it complex to conduct substantive research via live versions.

The brain’s growth system, that is understandn as gyrification, has generally been believed to be a biological response to the require for human brains to maximize the number of cortical neurons while minimizing the distance between them. But a team of researchers ran a series of experiments via a 3D printing technique that mimicked the growth and createment of a human brain, that typically begins at of the 23rd week of gestation and continues until well into adulthood. The researchers believe that they have proven that the folded structure is just a physical growth system and not a matter of biology.

Comparisons between a real brain and a brain produced via a simulation.

Comparisons between a real brain and a brain produced via a simulation.

The outcomes of the team’s experiments were published in Nature Physics this month as a paper called “On the Growth and Form of Cortical Convolutions”. The team of Harvard University scientists based their research on a little understandn version of brain createment that was made additional than 40 years ago. The version suggested that the shape and structure was just the outcome of a growth system and not directly tied to any biological the chemical directives of the brain. The researchers’ experiments with a 3D printed simulation of the brain seem to prove that the folds are in fact the outcome of mechanical compression forces in response to the brain’s rate of growth. The beneficial side impacts of the placement of cortical neurons in the brain appears to be a response to the brain’s growth system, not an active motivator for the brain’s growth system.

The 3D printed foetal brain.

The 3D printed foetal brain.

In order to run their simulation of brain createment the team 3D printed a version of a fetal brain based on MRI data via several various layers of soft gel materials. The layers of gel were created to swell and expand at various rates when placed in a specialized liquid solvent. The system was created to simulate the growth and createment of the brain’s gyri and sulci, the areas of folded tissue on the surface of the brain. The 3D printed version of the brain accurately created folds on its surface in the same patterns as those observed in real human brain createment as the outer layer compressed in on itself in response to the expansion of the inner layers of gel.

The 3D printed brain after being immersed in the solvent.

The 3D printed brain after being immersed in the solvent.

“Starting with the same first geometry, we in addition create numerical simulations of the brain versionled as a soft tissue with a expanding cortex, and show that this in addition creates the characteristic patterns of convolutions over a realistic createmental course. All together, our outcomes show that although most molecular determinants control the tangential expansion of the cortex, the dimensions, shape, placement and orientation of the folds arise through iterations and variations of an elementary mechanical instcapacity modulated by early foetal brain geometry,” wrote the study authors Tuomas Tallinen, Jun Young Chung, François Rousseau, Nadine Girard, Julien Lefèvre and L. Mahadevan.

The research may lead to additional accurate methods of diagnosing and treating most neurological disorders that have been linked to the malformation of the brain, as well as brain cell migration and the thickness of the cortex. Whilst this simulation of the createment of the brain surface can provide a useful template for next studies, the system of recreating the really complex growth system of a real human brain, and how that relates to how it functions, is really challenging. This version is limited just to predicting the behavior of easy, basic brain structures at the really onset of the folding system.

The 3D printed brain during the formation of the simulated brain folds.

The 3D printed brain during the formation of the simulated brain folds.

“Their simulations explain why folding always begins in weakly curved regions and why gyri and sulci align perpendicular to the way of maximum compressive stress. Experiments with swelling brain versions provide the essential missing link between versionling, experiment and simulation. But, a few limitations remain: the version is attractive and easy, but it is limited to the first folding of idealised structures; the experiment is useful for exploring instabilities beyond the onset of folding, but it is limited to moderate changes in volume,” explained the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering at Stanford University in California’s Ellen Kuhl in an accompanying paper that she authored, in addition published by Nature Physics.

You can see a video overview of the experiment here:

The experiment is potentially a starting point for new lines of research that may assist doctors and neuroscientists create new belief of the human brain that may lead to several medical advancements. Specifically, being able-bodied to link the rate of brain growth to neurological createment may assist scientists trace individual brain functions back to the folding of the brain surface. Because the system is mechanical, not biological, it may accurately determine how and when a thing goes wrong. This may lead to the capacity to select surface markers that may lead to the early diagnosis of autism, schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s disease. Early detection may in addition lead to the createment of additional effective treatment options and the cultivation of new preventative measures. Discuss this awe-inspiring new research in the 3D Printed Brain Model forum over at 3DPB.com.