Swiss scientists grew mini Neanderthal brains in petri dishes

Researchers at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology in Basel, Switzerland have attempted to isolate the Neanderthal DNA from certain human stem cells. A leader on the project, Grayson Camp, had already performed a similar experiment using chimpanzee stem cells, to get a better understanding of the differences between chimp and human brains.

Their research, titled "Human Stem Cell Resources Are an Inroad to Neandertal DNA Functions," was published on June 18, 2020, and began with analyzing genome data to identify the stem cells most likely to still carry Neanderthal DNA (which, as I've just now learned, mostly persists among Northern Europeans). From there, according to CNN:

The team then grew brain organoids — 3D blobs of brain tissue just a few millimeters wide and only just visible to the naked eye — from these cells by nurturing them in a petri dish with a growth factor.

Organoids, which can mimic in a rudimentary way many human organs, can be used to test the specific effects of drugs safely outside the body, something that has revolutionized and personalized areas such as cancer treatment.

"Researchers have of course generated and analyzed organoids from human cells before, just no one had ever bothered to look at what the Neanderthal DNA might be doing," Camp said.

Camp made certain to clarify that these were not fully functional Neanderthal brains — they were still, technically, human cells, just ones that contained Neanderthal DNA. Which is definitely different from Jurassic Park, he insists, although I'm pretty sure that pseudoscience also relied on isolating the leftover DNA that remained in the modern descendents of certain extinct lifeforms. Read the rest

Simone Giertz makes a paper shredder from her own brain scan

As you may know, YouTuber and Queen of Shitty Robots (and other sketchy maker projects), Simone Giertz, had to have brain surgery a year ago. One thing she acquired during this scary ordeal was a collection of MRI scans of her own brain.

What to do with these scans? Well, make a brass paper shredder in the shape of your own brain, obviously! As Simone explains, the idea was to make such a machine so that she could feed her hopes and dreams into it and have them shredded. Dark, Simone. Dark.

[Image: YouTube] Read the rest

Jenny Nicholson's "Top 10 Reasons I Won't Do ASMR" ASMR

I get a huge kick out of the videos of the always-entertaining nerd whisperer Jenny Nicholson. If you haven't seen her channel, check it out and watch as she sits on her bed, surrounded by sci-fi plushies, and shares her quirky, sometimes labyrinthine, and often convincing theories and opinions on sci-fi and fantasy films, comic books, novels, and other nerd media fodder.

In her latest video, she answers many requests she's apparently had for doing ASMR videos by explaining ten reasons why her answer is no. But she delivers her ten reason AS an ASMR video, right down to tapping, scratching, and scrunching things as she talks. One of her ten reasons made me laugh out loud:

"I just don't know how I'm supposed to take myself seriously when I'm crinkling bags for an hour."

For those unfamiliar, ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is an intense tingling sensation some people claim they experience when they hear certain soft voices, pleasant repetitive sounds, or while watching someone doing a particularly mundane, repetitive activity.

I'm sure Jenny is going to get a lot of grief from ASMRtists for seemingly making fun of them, but I would hope they'd have a healthy sense of humor about it all. Several commenters who claim to experience ASMR said that they laughed at her reasons for not doing it. I do not have ASMR, but I do enjoy listening to some ASMR audio as I'm going to sleep and I'm fascinated by the whole phenomenon and the numerous, surreal, and just plain bizarre videos people are producing in the genre. Read the rest

The mind-blowing neuroscience of hacking your dreams

Moran Cerf, a pen-testing bank-robber turned horribly misunderstood neuroscientist (previously, previously) gets to do consensual, cutting-edge science on the exposed brains of people with epilepsy while they're having brain surgery. Read the rest