The transparent brain

Scientist have created transparent brains, the NY Times reports. (There’s some cool animations at the link.)

Scientists at Stanford University reported on Wednesday that they have made a whole mouse brain, and part of a human brain, transparent, so that networks of neurons that receive and send information can be highlighted in stunning color and viewed in all their three-dimensional complexity without slicing up the organ.

One might ask, “why should I give a shit?” Personally, I suspect this new era of deep brain visualization and research is going to reveal that personality and activity of the mind is closely tied to brain structure. As a result, people choices are essentially limited to their brain components. As an example, un-empathic people may not be simply assholes, but people missing some degree of the empathy “toolset*” in their brain. This opens up a whole well of debate about free will, choice etc. – a debate that may end up affecting our legal system.

* I’m using this term to represent the neural area or network that might be integral to a certain function like empathy.

I do think various drugs an therapies can affect people’s mental “toolsets” (postively or negatively) but I doubt we can radically alter a person’s mental function. Unless we get into some sci-fi transplanting of brain tissue. Perhaps the rich empathy section of some namby-pamby liberal’s brain could be transplanted into that of a hardened psychopath making him a lover of puppies.

2 Responses to “The transparent brain”


  1. john

    Yeah, well intentioned idealistic young Scientists will disregard the cautious warnings of their elderly white haired Mentors and inadvertantly create a Race of Psycho Monster Guys!

    “Doctor Zoombacki was right all along!”

    “Zoombacki? We killed him!”

    “But . . . Why?”

    “He wasn’t a puppy!”

  2. Wil

    Puppies are the solution to all our problems. Maybe scientists will invent puppies that never age.