Monday, 5 March 2012
Brains, Fossils and X-Ray Machines
My last post on the Royal Society Summer Exhibition is partly to blame for my lack of blogging. I seem to be buried in my busiest teaching time, coupled with the research, design and build of the exhibit for the said event. However, my time has also been spent CT scanning some dinosaur brain cases...that are now winging their way back to the USA to the kind Institution (The Black Hills Institute) that loaned the fossil crania of some extinct beasties.
Why would we want to CT scan a fossilized lump of bone? The answer is quite simple; to take a look at the internal morphology of the brain case, the endocast. The geometry and morphology of this 'inside' view of a dinosaurs brain case yields important information on the anatomy of the brain that once filled the said space. Given the soft tissue of brains have now long gone, we can begin to reconstruct the wiring (cranial nerves) and plumbing (vascular network) that once carried messages and nutrients to and from this rather important control centre, that is still locked in the fossil bone. All this work is undertaken at the Henry Moseley X-Ray Imaging Facility at the University of Manchester.