Scientists in Seattle have created three-dimensional computer models of living human brain cells by studying tissue that is usually discarded during surgery.
The models, unveiled Wednesday by The Allen Institute for Brain Science, capture not only the shape and anatomy of living cells, but also the electrical signals they produce.
Until now, scientists have had to rely primarily on animals to study the electrical behavior of living brain cells, says Christof Koch, chief scientist and president of the institute.
“But in order to understand what makes us who we are, we really need to study the human brain,” Koch says. The new models should also make it easier to understand how brain diseases from Alzheimer’s disease to schizophrenia can affect the behavior of brain cells, he says.