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What are mini brains? - Madeline Lancaster

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Shielded by our thick skulls and swaddled in layers of protective tissue, the human brain is extremely difficult to observe in action. Luckily, scientists can use brain organoids — pencil-eraser-sized masses of cells that function like human brains but aren’t part of an organism — to look closer. How do they do it? And is it ethical? Madeline Lancaster shares how to make a brain in a lab.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Madeline Lancaster
  • Script Editor Elizabeth Cox
  • Animator Adam Wells
  • Composer Chris Reed
  • Sound Designer Chris Reed
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Associate Producer Elizabeth Cox, Jessica Ruby
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Director Adam Wells
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Interested in finding out more about brain organoids? Visit the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology site and read a post from the educator. There is also a TED Talk that directly relates to this lesson: Growing mini brains to discover what makes us human by Madeline Lancaster. This webinar also discusses this amazing technology.

How one scientist is growing miniature brains in her lab from Ideas.TED.com is another great read. The BBC also has an article: “We’re growing brains outside of the body.”

TED Ed has several great lessons on the human brain. Click here and start learning more about yours!

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Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Madeline Lancaster
  • Script Editor Elizabeth Cox
  • Animator Adam Wells
  • Composer Chris Reed
  • Sound Designer Chris Reed
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Associate Producer Elizabeth Cox, Jessica Ruby
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Director Adam Wells