3ders.org – A transparent skull printed in 3D allows scientists to see how the brain works


April 3, 2019 | By Thomas

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have developed a unique, 3D mouse-print transparent skull implant that allows real-time activity visualization at the surface of the brain. The device, called See-Shell, could help provide new information on human brain conditions such as concussions, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

"What we're trying to do is see if we can visualize and interact with large areas of the mouse brain surface, called the cortex, over long periods of time, which will give us new insights into how the human brain works." said Suhasa Kodandaramaiah, Ph.D., co-author of the study and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Benjamin Mayhugh, of the College of Science and Engineering. "This technology allows us to see most of the cortex in action with unprecedented control and accuracy, while stimulating parts of the brain."

Traditionally, most scientists have focused on small areas of the brain and have tried to understand it in detail. However, researchers are now discovering that what happens in one part of the brain probably affects other parts of the brain at the same time.

To make the See-Shell, the researchers digitally scanned the surface of the mouse skull, then used these digital scans to create an artificial transparent skull with the same outline as the original skull. During a precise surgical procedure, the top of the mouse's skull is replaced by the 3D printed skull device. The device allows researchers to simultaneously record brain activity and visualize the entire brain in real time.

The technology allows researchers to see global changes for the first time with unprecedented temporal resolution.

"This new device allows us to examine brain activity at the smallest level by zooming in on specific neurons while getting an overview of a large part of the brain's surface at over time, "said Kodandaramaiah. "Developing the device and showing that it works is just the beginning of what we can do to advance brain research."

A video published by the university shows an accelerated mouse brain scan, as seen through the See-Shell. "Brightness changes in the brain of the mouse correspond to an increase or decrease in neural activity, and subtle eclairs are periods during which the whole brain suddenly becomes active," the researchers note.

Another advantage of using this device is that the body of the mouse did not reject the implant, which means that researchers could study the same mouse brain for several months. This type of research on brain aging would take decades to study in humans.

"These are studies that we could not do in humans, but they are extremely important for understanding how the brain works to improve the treatment of people with brain injuries or diseases," he said. said Timothy J. Ebner, MD, Ph.D., co-author of the study, professor at the University of Minnesota and head of the department of neuroscience at the faculty of medicine.

The research is published in Nature Communications.

Posted in 3D Print App

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