March 31, 2009

Bloody Brains

I did tell you that I liked brains, but rather than losing myself in the effevescent and vibrant beauty of neurons or brainbows, we rarely get the chance to see a real live fleshy bloody spongy brain. And so I came across this fantastic specimen:



That's a ventral (upside down) view of a fresh brain before processing at the Allen Institute. The folks there are engaged in an impressive project ("Allen Brain Atlas") to map the entire brain with all its individual neurons so as to aid future neurological research. Call it a "Neural Genome" if you like. It's due for completion in 2012, after which it is expected that the constructions of our neural networks will be discovered, analysed and explained.

Fresh brains have to be collected soon after the donor's death, else nucleic acids beging to work and dissolve the cell membranes. Researchers have a limited window in which to cut the brain into slices and photograph each of them before and quickly packing them away in ice for storage before future RNA analysis.


Read Jonah Lehrer's article at Wired, and view the full gallery of images.

(Thanks to Mo for the tip.)

6 comments:

  1. One thing I'd be interested in would be ways to measure gene expression in vivo without the destruction of the organism being studied or having to genetically modify the organism.

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  2. Hi,

    Great post. I can't wait to see the results of the "Neural Genome" work being done.

    I'm a physician and former faculty member at Harvard and Stanford Medical Schools. I discovered your blog while looking for the best health writers on the web. I reviewed your posts, and think your writing would be a great addition to the Brain Health Community on Wellsphere, a top 5 health website that has nearly 5 million visitors monthly. If you would like to learn more about how you can join our Health Blogger Network, republish your blog posts and be featured on the Wellsphere platform, just drop me an email at dr.rutledge@wellsphere.com.

    Cheers,
    Geoff

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  3. Great post! I was searching a bot lot too see the Real brain wow! its amazing to see d commander of our life. Cool post
    Like it so much

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