3D printed cranial skull

3 months ago, doctors in the Netherlands used 3D printing to replace a woman’s skull. Not the whole skull, just the part around the brain. The unnamed woman had a rare condition that caused her skull to thicken. It had grown thick enough to press on the brain causing loss of vision and harming motor functions. She would have died without this operation.

Doctors have done similar transplants using a material like cement, but it doesn’t fit well. This is the first time a 3D printed prosthetic has been used to replace part of the skull (sorry, second time). After 3 months, the woman’s vision is back, and she’s back to her job. You can hardly tell that she has had the operation.┬áThe new skull prosthetic is transparent, but is covered by the woman’s scalp, so she looks normal.

3D printing is becoming more and more useful in medicine. From bone replacement, to custom built guides to help make operations more effective, this technology is helping more and more doctors. Just a couple of years ago these things would have been impossible. We’re living in the future.

Your brain is busy processing things you are never aware of

In an interesting experiment at the University of Arizona, researchers have found that your brain does a lot of processing of visual information, and sees things that your conscious self doesn’t “see”.

faces vase

When looking at the famous image of a vase that has faces on either side, your bring is doing processing of the negative images in white. They hooked subjects up to an EEG, the researches looked at the brainwaves of the subjects when they were exposed to images of black middle figures (silhouettes) with negative white space on either side, similar to the faces and vase picture. There is an N400 spike when looking at images where there is something in the negative white. That means that 400 ms after the image is shown, the brain shows a negative voltage spike. But it only does this when there is something in the negative white. There is no N400 spike if it’s just a center black object and the sides don’t mean anything.

So the brain is processing the white shapes, but not necessarily passing that on to the consciousness. There are things that your brain senses, but you don’t perceive.

Injured brain’s memories return with music

Researchers have tried playing music to people who have had brain injuries. These people were able to recall new things about their past after listening to the music. These weren’t Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers used top 100 music from each year of the lifetimes of the people. This music seemed to elicit memories of people, or places. They also played music for a control group, and got similar amounts of recollection. More research needs to be done, but it looks like a promising method of restoring the memories of people with brain injuries.