WHAT A BRAIN!
Austrian biologists grew human brain tissue out of stem cells. Which – if you don’t mind my saying it – was an amazingly dumb thing to do for a bunch of smart people. They didn’t know what the headline would be?
HUMAN BRAIN GROWN IN LAB
Seriously. They’re going to get unbelievable grief over this one. And it’s not like they didn’t see it coming. They went to some pains to suggest that the thing on their lab bench wasn’t MUCH of a brain really. “Nowhere near an adult human brain” More like in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. Pea-sized balls of white with “some of the complex features of a growing brain.”
What Jurgen Knoblich and his team accomplished (this is published in Nature Today, August 28, by the way) is scientifically very cool. They got brain tissue to self organize in some basic ways that have never been done before without nature directing the show. How far they can push this has yet to be seen but, even at this early stage, they’re learning things that may help us understand what goes wrong in the beginning. Knoblich’s team hopes this work will provide an alternative to some animal experiments too. Their “brain” is still primitive. It has no blood supply so very big pieces of it can’t be sustained. In other words, this is complex tissue but calling it a brain would be generous.
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That is my own brain. The drawing, I mean.
Ain't THAT Bad!
ARE THERE REALLY DIFFERENCES IN THE BRAINS OF LIBERALS VS CONSERVATIVES?
You never know when you’ll actually need a brain. When you’re fly fishing, gray matter and white matter help. I dunno about politics. Is brain meat actually an advantage there? Some say yes. Some say no.
One thing’s for sure. Liberal brains and conservative brains? They’re not the same thing. Ryoto Kanai (Current Biology) says he bothered to look at the brains of conservatives and found nothing at all.
All right, all right. He found stuff. But what? He found great big amygdalas (the part of the brain that, supposedly, recognizes danger). When he looked at liberals, he found a bigger cingulate cortex (which handles conflicting information). He says his research is the first neuroscientific evidence for biological difference between liberals and conservatives.
Let me help you distill this scientific work cause it’s so darn important. He’s saying conservatives are cavemen. Liberals are critical thinkers.
Here’s the thing. Its not like neurology’s a dead zone. Scientists really ARE figuring out what’s going on in our skulls. Great things are happening on that front. But you gotta keep a wary eye out cause “science” (those WERE quotes) can put lumps in YOUR brain if you believe everything you read. Dr. Kanai’s study showed a gross difference – a size difference – between two parts of the brain whose functions are “thought” (quotes again) to play a role in threat awareness vs information sorting. The author, himself, says it’s very unlikely that these differences “directly encode” political differences. He says that more grants.. uh.. I mean.. more studies are needed.
ScienceAintSoBadRating = 3 Nothing wrong with looking at this stuff. Careful about yer conclusions though. Okay?
Thanks to x-ray delta one and Flickr for the cartoon.
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