3D Printing Confirms Physical Model of Brain Folds
Reported by: Irina Robu, PhD
Highly folded brains are not present in most animals but only in some primates, dolphins, elephants and pigs. However, not a lot is understood of how the brain folds. Researchers at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences collaborating with scientists in Finland and France have shown that while many molecular processes are important in determining cellular events,what ultimately causes the brain to fold in a simple mechanical instability associated with buckling. Understanding how the brain folds is important because it can unlock the inner workings of the brain and unravel brain-related disorders.
The number, size, shape and position of neuronal cells during brain growth all lead to the expansion of the gray matter,relative to the underlying white matter. This puts the cortex under compression, leading to a mechanical instability that causes it to crease locally. Growth differential between the brain’s outer cortex and the soft tissue underneath explains the variations in the folding patterns, the relative size of the brain, and the relative expansion of the cortex.