I thought that Iris’ research into Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) was quite interesting. I was initially interested in the project because I am also doing research in neuroscience. What I quickly discovered through her talk, however, was that her research was much less molecular and much more mechanical. Thinking about the different kinds of acceleration that could damage the brain was a very new experience for me. The idea of thinking of the brain in as a rigid structure that could be thrown and broken was a very new idea.
Rather than repeatedly breaking our prized model subject, Iris first models these assaults in a computer program. I thought it was really cool that they had this predictive power to know what particular injury would occur given a certain type of trauma. I thought this could be of great clinical relevance as a reconstruction of the trauma, quickly ran on a computer, could be a great aid to a surgeon to know where bleeding would occur.
I was also surprised when Iris said that she would use a dead pig brain to test these forces and strains. As her questions are purely on the forces the brain was enduring, physiological responses are not necessary.
The final thing that was different about Iris’ talk was her ending it with ideas about the potential impacts of her research. While I’m sure my PI must be thinking of these things while writing grants, I had never thought of a reason for my research other than to learn more about the brain. Iris’ specific mention of applications to headgear and neurodegenerative disease, which are implicit in any neurobiological research, were an interesting consideration to make.