Brain Grown in a Dish

A computer chip marinated in neurons and stem cells creates super bursts of activity that could one day stimulate quiet areas to reboot after a stroke or other brain damage.

What's the Latest Development?


Researchers at the University of Florida have found a way to reanimate brain cells that have been quieted by strokes and traumatic head injuries. "The brain in the dish, or as the scientists prefer to call it, the 'biologically relevant neural model,' is a computer chip with an array of 60 microelectrodes that measure the action potential of neurons grown on top. The microelectrode array, or M.E.A., records the brain cell signals so the scientists can analyze them." After simulating a stroke, which quiets the neurons on the chip, adult stem cells are added, after which the neurons regain strength. 

What's the Big Idea?

The research could be a boon for stroke victims who typically suffer from large areas of silent neural networks around the area where the stroke occured. "If you rebuild an area [of the brain], you somehow have to get it to talk to the surrounding areas,' says biomedical engineering professor Brandi Ormerod. The adult stem cells might actually facilitate the communication between existing brain cells and new ones, enabling doctors to one day reboot the silenced cells of a brain."

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Shutterstock
Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less