It took 12 weeks to grow this tiny brain in a petri dish. It could revolutionize neuroscience.

Imagine a brain ravaged by neurological disease. Now imagine winding back the clock to before the damage was done.

I'm not trying to bum you out, I swear! Just picture it for a second.


Not much to look at, is it? Photo by DJ_/Flickr.

What if you knew that a person — or their brain, specifically — was almost guaranteed to develop a serious disease? Imagine what doctors could learn by watching it grow and develop, knowing precisely what to look for from the beginning. They'd chart and study it at every milestone, and they'd be able to pinpoint exactly when, and maybe exactly why, things started to go wrong.

From there, who knows what might happen. It could lead to big breakthroughs in treatment for diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. It could even lead to a cure.

Amazingly, we just got a little bit closer to that reality.

A team at The Ohio State University has grown a near-complete human brain in a petri dish. And it could give us some incredible answers.

Dr. Rene Anand took human skin cells and, over the course of about 12 weeks, turned them into a brain on par with about 99% of what you'd find in a five-week-old fetus.

Don't worry; the brain, which is about the size of a pencil eraser, isn't conscious. "We don't have any sensory stimuli entering the brain. This brain is not thinking in any way," Anand said. (Good to know it won't be plotting our demise any time soon.)

But it does have pretty much everything else that makes a brain a brain, including a spinal cord, a retina, and all the proper circuitry. The only thing it's missing is a heart to pump blood through it, but Dr. Anand hopes to hook the brain up to an artificial one someday soon.

Simply put, it's the most complete model of the human brain ever created. Before this, the best we'd ever done was still missing some pretty important stuff (you gotta have that cerebellum), and before that, the best we could muster were some replica rat brains.

Why go through all the trouble of growing a brain from scratch? Because it sure beats the alternatives.

An fMRI can't compete with poking and prodding a real, live brain. Photo by Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images.

There's so much that we don't know about the human brain. OK, so we know it looks like a chewed-up piece of gum. And that it starts to hurt when we stare at long division problems too long.

But what really happens to our brains when we get a concussion? What causes Parkinson's? How can we prevent strokes? Those are the questions that this brain might answer.

Dr. Anand hasn't yet given a full description of how he got skin cells to grow into a three-dimensional brain. (Previous teams have had some success with little tiny scaffolds for the cells to climb and grow on — kind of like itty-bitty jungle gyms.) But assuming his methods can be duplicated by others, and personalized (that's right! one day they might be able to grow a little replica of your very own brain), we could be on the verge of a really exciting future.

At the very least, these lab-created brains will give us a way to test new drugs on the human nervous system rather than on animals. It's more humane and much more effective. We'll also be able to find clues behind the causes of certain diseases, catch things we can't see in postmortem exams, and spot things we can only see through expensive and invasive testing.

Dr. Anand also says that his team's "organoid" brain might not be done growing. It could turn into a full, 100% genetic replica of a small fetus brain.

That's still pretty tiny, but it's room enough to hold a whole new world of possibility.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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