Nervous system may be more distributed than we thought

Your nervous system might be more sophisticated than we thought. Classically, nerves send signals to the brain for processing. The brain does all the heavy lifting of figuring out what was observed.

That may not be the case. Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have found that the nerves in skin do some preprocessing of the signals before they send them to the brain.

Our work has shown that two types of first-order tactile neurons that supply the sensitive skin at our fingertips not only signal information about when and how intensely an object is touched, but also information about the touched object’s shape

In particular, they found that the neurons in the skin perform the same type of calculations that the cerebral cortex does.

New brain-like tissue made

Scientists studying the brain have managed to grow neurons on petri dishes for a while, but they don’t connect the way real neurons do because the ones in a dish grow in a fundamentally 2D environment, and regular brains are fundamentally 3D.

Now, researchers at Tufts University in Boston have made a 3D scaffold that allows neurons to connect more realistically. It has grey matter / white matter compartmentalization, which means that the structure is more similar to real brains. It can also last longer, up to two months in labs.

This new tissue can let scientists study brain biology in more detail. They can see what happens to nearby cells when there is trauma. They can also see the effects of administering drugs more easily.