Wrinkled brain mimics crumpled paper | Science News

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Wrinkled brain mimics crumpled paper

Power law relationship for folding applies across species

By
2:00pm, July 2, 2015

PAPER TOSS  When sheets of paper were scrunched, variations in surface area (larger on the left) led to balls with different levels of crumpled folding. Surface area is one part of a new equation that may help describe how brains fold.

Cramming a big brain into a skull may be as easy as just wadding it up. The same physical rules that dictate how a paper ball crumples also describe how brains get their wrinkles, scientists suggest July 3 in Science.

That insight, arrived at in part by balling up sheets of standard-sized A4 office paper, offers a simple explanation for the ridges and valleys that give rise to thoughts, memories and emotions. The results also explain the shapes of a multitude of mammal brains ranging from the ultrawrinkled dolphin brain to the smooth brain of manatees, says study coauthor Suzana Herculano-Houzel. “There are no outliers.”

Other researchers argue that the simple physical explanation ignores clear evidence of other factors involved, such as nerve cell production and the behavior of genes. How the brain folds is still very much up for debate, they say. “It could very well be

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