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When you die, most of the cells in your brain will gradually blink. But some, according to a new study, will become extremely active and grow to new sizes for several hours after death.
It’s morbid to think that your brain is turning plus active after you’re gone, but the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) researchers behind the discovery emphasized in a press release that it doesn’t mean that people are conscious or that the so-called “zombie genes” that trigger this Neural activity could do anything as dramatic as waking the dead.
Instead, the study, which was published Tuesday in the journal Nature scientific reports, has important implications for the way neuroscientists study the brain, especially when those studies are based on human tissue samples.
Specifically, the team found that glial cells, which are not directly related to neural activity but provide a support system for the brain, became activated, swelled, and even developed new appendages just as the other cells around them died out. .
“That glial cells enlarge after death is not too surprising given that they are inflammatory and their job is to clean things up after brain injuries like lack of oxygen or a stroke,” study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Loeb , head of neurology and rehabilitation at the UIC Faculty of Medicine, said in the press release.
That poses a small problem for the field, because much of the research scientists have done on neurological conditions like brain injury or Alzheimer’s disease is carried out on brain tissue collected after death or surgery, and operates under the assumption that brain cells just die. like anyone else, Loeb added.
“Our findings do not mean that we should scrap human tissue research programs, it just means that researchers should take into account these genetic and cellular changes, and reduce the post-mortem interval as much as possible to reduce the magnitude of these changes.” Loeb said in the statement. “The good news from our findings is that we now know which genes and cell types are stable, which are degraded, and which increase over time, so the results of post-mortem brain studies can be better understood.”
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