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What Would It Really Feel Like To Touch A Human Brain?

Fair warning: the video below features HD footage of a freshly dissected human brain. Not surpris...

What Would It Really Feel Like To Touch A Human Brain?
Fair warning: the video below features HD footage of a freshly dissected human brain. Not surprisingly, it's a little graphic – but it's also 100% fascinating, not to mention it shows a brain very different from the one you're probably imagining.

Ask yourself what a human brain feels like. Most of us would probably describe it as heavy, and that's certainly true (the average person's brain matter tips the scales at about 3 pounds). But what of its consistency? What does a mass of tens of billions of neurons feel like to the touch?

If you're like most people who've handled a brain (in, say, a gross anatomy lab), you might assume it feels solid, firm, almost rubber-like. But the brains you encounter in a lab setting have almost always been fixed and preserved with chemicals like formaldehyde, which have a dramatic effect on the texture and firmness of tissue like brain matter. In reality, however, a fresh, untreated brain is a surprisingly squishy thing, as this delightfully explicit video from the University of Utah Brain Institute clearly illustrates.

What Would It Really Feel Like To Touch A Human Brain?

This whole video is fantastic, but my favorite part is watching neurobiologist Suzanne Stensaas part the brain's hemispheres like two halves of a glistening JELL-O mold.

"It's very, very soft," she explains, the seat of human consciousness joggling about in her palms. "Notice, it's totally squishy... much softer than most of the meat you would see in a market. So if I were to pinch this... I would easily damage this with my thumb."

In fact, she doesn't even need to pinch it. Around the 5:30 mark, you can clearly see a depression that was left in the tissue just from the weight of the brain resting in her hands. To think that we all go about our lives – breakdancing, bicycling, kickboxing, footballing, head-standing, head-banging, skiing or, hell, just plain walking from place to place – with this eminently fragile thing floating serenely in our skulls, enveloped in a protective bath of cerebral spinal fluid. It's kind of unbelievable.

WATCH THE VIDEO: 
 

Source: io9


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