Scientists Have Just Made Their Own Brain (WOW)


No doubt you’ve all heard about the brain
in a vat theory in which scientists ponder the scenario of us not being connected to
our bodies. In this thought experiment we are merely brains,
suspended in some kind of life-sustaining liquid and connected to a super-computer that
gives us consciousness. If the computer tricks the brain in a vat
into thinking it’s walking around, is it really walking around? What difference is there between believing
something is happening and having it happen in some kind of objective reality? What even is an objective reality? We could easily spend a whole episode on just
this question, but ignoring the philosophical questions, what if we told you that scientists
have created a brain without a body, and it functions? To understand how this happened first we need
to understand something called organoids. These are 3D organ models that are grown in
a lab. They are basically mini organs that mimic
how our organs work. If that can be done, it has wide implications
for biological research. We can use them to model diseases, for gene
editing, for transplantations and of course so scientists can just study the organoid
and how it functions. So, you’d think one of the best things to
recreate would be a brain. That’s something we’d like to study and
unfortunately scientists have always had a hard time trying to understand exactly how
the living brain works because you can’t exactly open up the hood of living patients
and start prodding around. This is one of the setbacks when scientists
try and understand consciousness, something that has been a mystery in some part since
we had brain experts. You should be proud; your brain is one very
complicated and amazing piece of organic machinery. Well, most of them anyways. Making a living brain would be a massive scientific
breakthrough. And it’s already been done, if you believe
a paper published in a journal called Cell Stem Cell that is. This paper isn’t exactly easy to understand,
so we’ll give you an excerpt from the paper and then attempt to tell you what happened
in layman’s terms. Here is the snippet: “We developed human cortical organoids that
dynamically change cellular populations during maturation and exhibited consistent increases
in electrical activity over the span of several months. The spontaneous network formation displayed
periodic and regular oscillatory events that were dependent on glutamatergic and GABAergic
signaling. The oscillatory activity transitioned to more
spatiotemporally irregular patterns, and synchronous network events resembled features similar
to those observed in preterm human electroencephalography.” Did you get all that? Yeah, we thought so, it’s not the kind of
thing you’d spill your coffee over trying to be the first to tweet out to all of your
friends. People generally don’t get really excited
when they hear about “glutamatergic and GABAergic signaling.” Thankfully the media talked to these scientists
and they explained what happened in terms the average non-brain-scientist human can
understand. What the scientists say they actually did
was create organoids of a brain. Remember those are the smaller versions of
regular organs. And this one was A LOT smaller. In fact, it’s about one million times smaller
than your brain. Even if your IQ is on the low side, your brain
is an ultra advanced super computer compared to what they created. Saying that, it’s still really special because
in their 3-D brain they recreated electrical waves, what we call brainwaves. These tiny things in some part functioned
just like our bigger brains. They grew the small brains by putting pluripotent
stem cells, basically a type of cell that can grow into all different types of cells,
into an environment that resembled the conditions in which the brain would normally grow. As you know from that difficult-to-understand
paper, after a few months these things started to mature. What happened was those cells got together
and grew, and they grew into brain cells and in the end they grew into something much like
the full organ, just very, very small. And this wasn’t a one time success, they
actually created hundreds of them. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While this breakthrough is big, it doesn’t
mean we had a bunch of tiny brains that could experience consciousness. They weren’t looking down on a petri dish
thinking I’ve just seen God and he wears a white jacket and glasses, or, “hmm, I
think therefore I am.” Nope. This brain was utterly senseless, but it did
show activity. This is mega-important because those scientists
are now thinking that with these organoids they can work on better understanding how
the brain functions, in sickness and in health. Newsweek writes that they are hopeful that
down the line these tiny bits of brain might help scientists find a cure for all kinds
of neurological disorders including schizophrenia, autism, and epilepsy. If the brain ends up wired in the wrong way,
maybe that faulty wiring can be fixed. One of the co-authors of the study who does
her work at the University of California said this about her team’s achievement, “You
can use brain organoids for several things, including to understand normal human neurodevelopment,
disease modeling, brain evolution, drug screening, and even to inform artificial intelligence.” Another very cool thing the scientists did
was create an algorithm based on the brain pattern of 39 womb-bound fetuses aged between
six and nine and a half months old. First they were able to detect the brainwaves
in the developing fetuses. They then used the algorithm to look at their
brain organoids and it showed that their creation was growing like the naturally developing
brains. This is the first time it’s ever been done,
because while in the past scientists have created mini-brains they didn’t have functioning
neural networks. Now scientists are mimicking how the brain
really grows, and are of course very excited. But will they develop something almost human,
like the famous brain in a vat? Could science make these things conscious
down the line? One of the researchers answered like this: “The organoid is still a very rudimentary
model—we don’t have other brain parts and structures. So these brain waves might not have anything
to do with activities in real brains.” Ok, we can stop fantasizing then. These body-less brains won’t be hitting
you up on social networks or binge-watching Friends. Nor will they be put into metal bodies and
hang out in a vault under a hotel until one of them commits murder. Oh, but hang on, because researchers also
said this: “It might be that in the future, we will
get something that is really close to the signals in human brains that control behaviors,
thoughts, or memory. But I don’t think we have any evidence right
now to say we have any of those.” She went on to say that what they all hope
is that one day soon they’ll have these advanced brain models and be able to use them
to study disease and in turn give people with brain disease a better quality of life. She said you also have to think about the
matter of ethics. If you are creating something close to a human
then you must treat it with respect. If these brains start dreaming of electric
sheep then what has been created? But we are a while away from making a brain
that can think. Still, it’s big news among the scientific
community. What do you think about it? Are you excited? Would a brain in a jar be a human? Tell us in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other video
Why Would a Scientist Inject Himself with 3.5 Million Year Old Bacteria? Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.

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