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Our brain matter is stuck at a phase transition, says new study

• New Atlas

You might think your brain is pretty solid, but new research says it's composition might not be so straightforward. Scientists at Northwestern University have identified components of neurons that match up to materials undergoing a phase shift – a transition from one state of matter, like a liquid, to another, like a gas.

"The structure of the brain at the cellular level appears to be near a phase transition," said Northwestern's Helen Ansell, the first author of a paper about the finding. "An everyday example of this is when ice melts into water. It's still water molecules, but they are undergoing a transition from solid to liquid. We certainly are not saying that the brain is near melting. In fact, we don't have a way of knowing what two phases the brain could be transitioning between. Because if it were on either side of the critical point, it wouldn't be a brain."


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