Peter Watts: No Brainer.
For decades now, I have been haunted by the grainy, black-and-white x-ray of a human skull. It is alive but empty, with a cavernous fluid-filled space where the brain should be. A thin layer of brain tissue lines that cavity like an amniotic sac. The image hails from a 1980 review article[PDF] in Science: Roger Lewin, the author, reports that the patient in question had “virtually no brain”. But that’s not what scared me; hydrocephalus is nothing new, and it takes more to creep out this ex-biologist than a picture of Ventricles Gone Wild. What scared me was the fact that this virtually brain-free patient had an IQ of 126.[more inside]
The Heslington Brain is a well-preserved 2600 year old brain that was found in an Iron Age excavation site in York in 2008. Its preservation was likely due to the low-oxygen environment of the mud in which it was found. The fact that the man was decapitated and the body disposed of elsewhere protected the brain from the ravages of gut bacteria as well. [more inside]
Sleep deprivation making you feel jumpy? It's not in your head. Human cortical excitability increases with time awake. [Abstract and link to full paper.]
This is a subject of but small importance; and I know not whether it will interest any readers, but it has interested me.
"This is a subject of but small importance; and I know not whether it will interest any readers, but it has interested me."-C. D. Quick... what was Darwin's most popular book? If you answered The Origin of Species, you were wrong. It was his last book, published the year before he died, The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms With Observation of Their Habits (illustrations [first presented 1 Nov. 1837, as noted in the record of the Royal Geological Society]). Darwin noted when he was beginning his career that worms churned up soil, causing heavier objects to sink slowly in the soil. He noted that all soil had passed through the alimentary duct of worms. It started off a fashion of cultivating worms by gardeners that continues to the present day. -We recently learned that we owe an element of our unique cerebral cortex, or pallium to our marine worm ancestors. (In amphibians, the cerebrum includes archipallium, paleopallium and some of the basal nuclei. Reptiles first developed a neopallium, which continued to develop in the brains of more recent species to become the neocortex of mammals." [&, ultimately, you and you and we]) [more inside]
Mapping the Structural Core of Human Cerebral Cortex. A new study of the connections in the brain has identified the brain's central hub.
Cool high-school science experiment: Mapping The Homunculus. The 15 year old in me wonders why nipples and other naughty bits aren't mentioned, though. Bet they'd be really big!!!