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The human mind might be squished 10 occasions as simply as polystyrene foam



Researchers used MRI scans and an algorithm to measure the stiffness and resilience to strain of the mind in residing individuals


14 December 2022

Brains are surprisingly squishy


Although they could appear like they’re comprised of rubber, human brains are softer and squishier. Their skill to withstand strain is way lower than the polystyrene foam used for packaging, extra similar to that of a slab of gelatine.

Nicholas Bennion at Cardiff College within the UK and his colleagues got down to develop a technique for acquiring extra correct measurements of the mind’s bodily properties inside residing people. Most of what we find out about how mind tissue reacts to devices touching it throughout neurosurgery comes from organs which have been minimize into or eliminated and preserved in chemical substances, which may have an effect on tissue stiffness and resiliency.

Combining a machine studying algorithm with MRI scans of individuals mendacity face down after which resist shift the placement of the mind within the cranium, the researchers had been in a position to work out completely different materials traits of the mind and tissues that join it to the cranium. They quantified how a lot the mind collapses when pressed on, the way it reacts to being pushed sideways and the way springy the connective tissues are.

“If you take a brain which hasn’t been preserved in any way, its stiffness is incredibly low, and it breaks apart very easily. And it really is probably a lot softer than most people realise,” says Bennion.

The workforce discovered that mind matter might be compressed as much as 10 occasions extra simply than polystyrene foam and that its resilience to being pushed sideways is a few thousandth of what it could be if it had been comprised of rubber – its squishiness is similar to a slab of gelatine. Bennion says that the algorithm calculated that the tissues connecting the mind to the cranium had been additionally pretty mushy, probably to guard the mind from transferring too abruptly.

Although researchers have lengthy identified that brains are very mushy and really fragile, the brand new research makes that notion exact sufficient to raised inform delicate surgical procedures, says Ellen Kuhl at Stanford College in California.

The brand new technique, nonetheless, could not totally seize the best way the mind deforms throughout motions extra violent than shifting positions, akin to head trauma in an influence sport or site visitors accident, says Krystyn Van Vliet on the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how. In these conditions, the circulation of fluids inside the mind can change its materials properties.

The workforce hopes their mannequin can now be used to foretell mind shifts that can happen doing surgical procedure for every particular person affected person based mostly on pre-operative MRI scans. This will likely remove the necessity for inserting and re-inserting devices into the mind till they hit the right spot, making procedures much less invasive.

Reference: Journal of the Royal Society Interface, DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2022.0557

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