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Mar 02, 2017 09:48 AM EST

New Research Suggests The Brain Is Inside One, Big Neuron

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A team of scientists from the Allen Institute for Brain Science has found a startling discovery about the brain. They said that the brain might be encompassed by a single neuron that is related to our consciousness.

Christof Koch, the president of Allen Institute, said that he and his team found three neurons that that reach the area of the brain called claustrum into the left and right hemisphere of the brain. What's startling about this is the fact that although they were there before, they have remained unnoticed until now.

However, there is a more shocking discovery than that - there is a massive neuron that surrounds the brain like a protective membrane. This massive membrane along with the three newly detected neurons might be helping the claustrum to function.

A closer look at the claustrum

To better understand the impact of the discovery, let's take a closer look at the claustrum and its role in how the brain functions.

The claustrum is just a thin, small sheet of cells found in the neocortex deep into the center of the brain. Scientists have been studying it for a long time and believed that it plays a critical role in the higher cognitive functions of the brain and the consciousness.

With the unnoticed neurons now identified, Koch and his team believe that the massive neuron around the brain might be coordinating different signals in various areas of the brain and bringing them all together to form the consciousness.

The method

The scientists identified the neurons by studying lab rats whose claustrum was genetically engineered with a specific type of gene. When fed with a certain drug, the genes glow allowing the researchers to photograph it. For this experiment, the scientists were able to capture 10,000 cross-sectional images which they put together to create a 3D model. With this method, the scientists will continue mapping the brain, especially the claustrum to find more neurons that might originate from there.

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