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Live brain tissue. Photo courtesy of the Allen Institute.

By studying brain tissue that is typically disposed of during surgery, the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle is building 3D, computer reconstructions of the shape and electrical signals sent by brain cells, per NPR.

Christof Koch, chief scientist and president of the institute, told NPR that previous research on the electrical activity of neurons has relied on samples from animals. This research, therefore, could help indicate what is unique about the human brain and bring better understanding of brain diseases. "In order to understand what makes us who we are, we really need to study the human brain," Koch said.

How they're doing it: During brain surgery, healthy tissue is often removed along with diseased tissue, and then discarded. "So we now have people inside or just outside the operating room who receive those pieces of brain, put them in a special container and then rapidly move them over here," Koch told NPR.

The scientists then keep that tissue alive until they can get them in the lab and study them. So far they've looked at the electrical behavior of about 300 neurons from 36 different people.

The Allen Institute recently received 5-year grants totaling $100 million from the NIH toward its work creating these atlases of brain cells.

Go deeper

The social media addiction bubble

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Right now, everyone from Senate leaders to the makers of Netflix's popular "Social Dilemma" is promoting the idea that Facebook is addictive.

Yes, but: Human beings have raised fears about the addictive nature of every new media technology since the 18th century brought us the novel, yet the species has always seemed to recover its balance once the initial infatuation wears off.

Young people's next big COVID test

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Young, healthy people will be at the back of the line for coronavirus vaccines, and they'll have to maintain their sense of urgency as they wait their turn — otherwise, vaccinations won't be as effective in bringing the pandemic to a close.

The big picture: "It’s great young people are anticipating the vaccine," said Jewel Mullen, associate dean for health equity at the University of Texas. But the prospect of that enthusiasm waning is "a cause for concern," she said.

7 hours ago - World

New Zealand authorities charge 13 parties over deadly volcano eruption

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at New Zealand's parliament in Wellington. Photo: Mark Tantrum Photography via Getty Images

New Zealand authorities laid safety violation charges Monday against 10 organizations and three individuals over the fatal Whakaari/White Island volcanic disaster last December, per a statement from the agency WorksSafe.

Details: WorksSafe declined to name those charged as they may seek name suppression in court. But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said government agencies GNS Science, which monitors volcanic activity, and the National Emergency Management Agency were among those charged over the "horrific tragedy" that killed 22 people.

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