Slicing brain piece by piece

Imagine your brain being sliced by a razor into thin pieces of tissues – such mere thought elicits extreme pain to us. Yet, neuroscientists do that. Behold the action done in University of California, San Diego:

Our delicate and jelly like brain, weighing about 1.5kg for an ordinary adult, is precisely cut into 2000 slices, each as thick as a fine hair (70-microns). Each slice is painstakingly stained and photographed. All the scans are available online at the Brain Observatory. The digital library of brain helps researchers and doctors understand our brain better by providing an extremely detailed map of the brain (0.37 micron per pixel). The scientists are not limited by the blurry images typically taken in an MRI scan and able to pinpoint locations in the brain. This is a huge upgrade!

Apart from the obvious usefulness in research, the team also hope that the act helps “humanise” our brain. By understanding our brain better we could care more about the relevant topics. Each brain collection comes with biography, interviews and media that help us understand the person as a human (up to the individual’s agreement). Science communication is a challenging task – how do we make people care and engaged for the issues we try to get across?

Dr. Jacopo Annese shows off a 3D model of Henry Molaison’s brain. Kate Shaw, Ars Technica, http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/03/stepping-into-the-digital-brain-library-the-google-earth-of-neuroscience/
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