Neuroscientists create ‘brain in a dish’ to study human intelligence, language

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A team from Johns Hopkins Medical School and Nanjing University has just created a microcosm of the cerebral cortex that fits inside a lab dish. The “cortex in a dish” consists of an interwoven mesh of neurons that transmit electrical signals and other cells that damp down this activityThe cultured neurons may expand the toolkit needed to lift neurological and psychiatric drug development out of its present rut.

Scientific American talked with Valina Dawson, co-director of the Institute for Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, about a paper published April 6 in Science Translational Medicine on which she was the senior author.

Describe what a ‘cortex in a dish’ is?

Valina Dawson: The brain is divided into different structures and regions. The cerebral cortex is the largest part of the brain and manages higher brain functions such as thought and actions, language, sensory processing such as hearing and vision. One way to study how the neurons in the cortex function is to grow them in culture, “in a dish.”

Why have researchers wanted to create this laboratory model of the cortex?

VD: Having human neurons in culture allows experimental investigations into signaling events at the chemical, protein and genetic levels that underlie normal and diseased actions in a manner that would not be possible or ethical in an intact human brain. Understanding how the neurons in the cortex work and what goes wrong when disease occurs will provide, we hope, new therapeutic opportunities to treat patients who suffer from brain injury and disease.

Read full, original post: A Q&A With the Scientist Who Helped Create the “Cortex in a Dish” System

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