Researchers Begin Making 3D Artificial Brain

European scientists have taken the first steps toward creating a 3D artificial brain by growing synapses and instigating electric impulses. The goal is to better understand neurological disease. 

What's the Latest Development?

By attaching neurons to a fibrous scaffold, European scientists have taken the first step toward creating a 3D artificial brain, which scientists believe will aid our understanding of neurological diseases. After threading neurons through the nanocellulose scaffold, found naturally in fibrous materials like woodpulp, a neural network emerged naturally, generating synapses between the ends of the neurons. "The researchers could then use electrical impulses and chemical signal substances to generate nerve impulses that spread through the network in much the same way as they do in the brain."

What's the Big Idea?

At some point, the scientists will kill the very synaptic connections they have worked to create, wishing to study one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer's disease. "They also want to study how cells react to the patients' spinal fluid. In the future, this method may be useful for testing various pharmaceutical candidates that could slow down the destruction of synapses." The number of biomedical applications that could be developed from nanocellulose scaffolding is astounding, from prosthetic cartilage to artificial blood vessels.

Photo credit:

Stress is contagious–but resilience can be too

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Think of the closest planet to Earth... Wrong! Think again!

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Horseshoe crabs are drained for their blue blood. That practice will soon be over.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.

Credit: Business Insider (video)
Surprising Science
  • Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
  • This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
  • Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
Keep reading Show less

10 novels that brilliantly capture the American experience

The distance between the American dream and reality is expressed best through literature.

American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin poses at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979. (Photo: Ralph Gatti/AFP/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Literature expands our ability to feel empathy and inspires compassion.
  • These 10 novels tackle some facet of the American experience.
  • The list includes a fictional retelling of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, and hiding out in inner-city Newark.
Keep reading Show less