This 'Pickled' Dinosaur Brain Was Miraculously Preserved for 133 Million Years
“We are simply amazed that we have any structures present given how delicate these things are.”

For the first time ever, paleontologists have identified fossilized soft brain tissue from a dinosaur, providing an unprecedented glimpse inside the heads of these iconic Mesozoic animals.

According to a Special Publication of the Geological Society of London released Thursday, an innocuous rock found near Bexhill-on-Sea in southern England contains traces of capillaries, partial cortical tissues, and meninges—protective membranes that envelop the brain—which belonged to an Iguanodon-like dinosaur some 133 million years ago.

It’s hard to overstate the sheer implausibility of this find. Examples of fossilized soft tissues are extremely rare because these organs deteriorate much faster than sturdier skeletal structures. Aquatic animals are more likely to experience some degree of tissue preservation because underwater sedimentary beds offer prime conditions for fossilization. But it is pretty much unheard of to find soft tissues of long-extinct terrestrial animals, let alone brain matter.

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Researchers Say They’ve Found A Bit Of Fossilized Dinosaur Brain

A rusty-brown rock found on a beach by a fossil hunter might contain a bit of preserved dinosaur brain.

If so, it would be the first time scientists have ever found fossilized brain tissue from a dinosaur.

The fossil comes from a species closely related to Iguanodon, a large herbivore that lived about 130 million years ago. A collector named Jamie Hiscocks found it in 2004, near Bexhill in the United Kingdom.

“He picked it up and noticed that it was slightly unusual in its shape and its texture,” says Alex Liu of the University of Cambridge. “There’s a series of bumps to this specimen that are quite characteristic of it fitting into the brain case of a dinosaur.”

This kind of fossil gets made when sediment fills up a dinosaur’s skull cavity and hardens. Later, if the skull breaks off and disappears, what’s left behind is a solid object that reveals the shape of the skull’s inner cavity.

What’s different about this particular example, Liu says, is that the outer millimeter or so of this fossil “is actually mineralization of some of the soft tissue structures that were preserved before they decayed away within the original dinosaur brain case.”

The dead dinosaur’s head may have fallen into a bog or a swamp, he says, where chemical conditions allowed the soft tissues to become mineralized.

Hiscocks showed his unusual fossil to Martin Brasier of the University of Oxford, who was the first to recognize that it might contain preserved brain tissue. A team of researchers examined the sample in detail and found what they believe are tough collagen fibers and tiny blood vessels that are part of the protective outer covering of the brain.

Lower down, they see hints of another textured surface that might be the actual top of the brain itself. “It’s a little bit harder to convince yourself that it’s definitely there,” Liu says, “just because it is deeper within the specimen so it’s harder to see it on the surface. But we think that we have actually got some of that tissue preserved, as well.”

One member of the research team is describing the find Thursday at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Salt Lake City. A full reportappears in a special publication of the Geological Society of London that’s a tribute to Brasier, who died in 2014 before he was able to publish on this find.

Any claim of preserved soft tissue from a dinosaur tends to be controversial, and the idea that scientists might have part of an actual brain is going to get a lot of scrutiny.

“That’s a remarkable claim, just because brain tissue turns out to be one of the first things that decomposes after an animal dies,” says Lawrence Witmer of Ohio University, a paleontologist who studies the soft tissues of dinosaur heads.

He thinks the scientists make a “compelling case” that they have part of the protective outer covering of the brain.

“What’s potentially even more exciting is that they are very cautious, as good scientists are, about the possibility that they might even have some preservation of the neural tissue of the brain underneath,” notes Witmer, who says this is a surprise. “We would never expect to see actual brain tissue preserved.”

Witmer thinks the bar for evidence should be very high. “These are, in a sense, extraordinary claims,” he says.

Amy Balanoff of the Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution at Johns Hopkins University calls the find “intriguing.” But she’d like to see comparisons to the anatomy of birds or crocodiles, and she wants to see more details on the branching pattern of the putative blood vessels.

“I’m not convinced,” says Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History. He’s concerned that the paper describing the find was published even though the fossil specimen is not yet in a public repository, such as a museum, where others can study it. What’s more, he thinks the report generally doesn’t reflect the state-of-the-art knowledge on dinosaur brain anatomy.

If the finding stands up to scrutiny, it’s unclear what the discovery could reveal about dinosaurs’ intellectual capacity.

In modern reptiles, Liu says, the brain does not take up the whole brain cavity. The brain is surrounded by a lot of protective, spongy tissue. But in this fossil, the brain’s protective covering seems to be thin, suggesting that the brain was filling more of the cavity and the dinosaur could have had a greater mental capacity.

“Understanding of dinosaurs as a whole has changed completely in the last 20 or 30 years. Dinosaurs are now seen to be much more mobile, agile, smart creatures,” Liu says, “and this is just one line of evidence that supports that view.”

One thing that’s almost certain is that scientists will now be going back and looking with new eyes at old fossils that are already in collections, according to Witmer.

“It’s not like we didn’t think dinosaurs had brains,” Witmer says, but “if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re not likely to find it.”

Author: Nell Greenfieldboyce


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13 Impressive Psychology Tricks that Will Make Your Life Easier

Originally posted by thelucidnation

Every human being is a unique universe, but psychologists who have a keen eye for details keep discovering new behavioral patterns that are believed to be rooted in our childhood and can be applied to everyone.

We decided to share these useful psychology tricks; maybe they will positively affect your communication skills and make your life easier in some way.

  1. If you have the feeling that someone is watching you, just yawn and look around. If someone is really stalking you, he will yawn too, since yawing is highly contagious.

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How Interpreters Juggle Two Languages at Once

For most of history, interpretation was mainly done consecutively, with speakers and interpreters making pauses to allow each other to speak. But after the advent of radio technology, a new simultaneous interpretation system was developed in the wake of World War II. In the simultaneous mode, interpreters instantaneously translate a speaker’s words into a microphone while he speaks, without pauses. Those in the audience can choose the language in which they want to follow.  

On the surface it all looks seamless, but behind the scenes, human interpreters work incessantly to ensure every idea gets across as intended. And that is no easy task.

It takes about two years of training for already fluent bilingual professionals to expand their vocabulary and master the skills necessary to become a conference interpreter. To get used to the unnatural task of speaking while they listen, students shadow speakers and repeat their every word exactly as heard, in the same language. In time, they begin to paraphrase what is said, making stylistic adjustments as they go. At some point a second language is introduced. Practicing in this way creates new neural pathways in the interpreter’s brain and the constant effort of reformulation gradually becomes second nature.  

Over time, and through much hard work, the interpreter masters a vast array of tricks to keep up with speed, deal with challenging terminology and handle a multitude of foreign accents. They may resort to acronyms to shorten long names, choose generic terms over specific, or refer to slides and other visual aids. They can even leave a term in the original language while they search for the most accurate equivalent.

Interpreters are also skilled at keeping aplomb in the face of chaos. Remember: they have no control over who is going to say what or how articulate the speaker will sound. A curve ball can be thrown at any time. Also, they often perform to thousands of people and in very intimidating settings, like the UN General Assembly. To keep their emotions in check, they carefully prepare for an assignment, building glossaries in advance, reading voraciously about the subject matter, and reviewing previous talks on the topic.

Finally, interpreters work in pairs. While one colleague is busy translating incoming speeches in real time, the other gives support by locating documents, looking up words and tracking down pertinent information. Because simultaneous interpretation requires intense concentration, every 30 minutes the pair switches roles. Success is heavily dependent on skillful collaboration.

From the TED-Ed Lesson How interpreters juggle two languages at once - Ewandro Magalhaes

Animation by @rewfoe

My Brain During The PSATs
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