3D printing – animal brains

Taking the opportunity of the Donders Institute open day, we decided to launch the production of an activity around the comparison of brain across species. A way to open a new thematic that matter to us : animal cognition.

Thanks to MRI scan that are available on online databases (LONI for fetus brains, braincatalogue for animal brains) and after few modification (reading and transformation of MRI scans under the programming language python and creation of 3D surfaces with ImageJ), we were able to make file usable by 3D printers.

Then, Erik Van Oort helps us in making the plastic representations of them.

We can observed:

  • brains from cat and cheetah: look how folding is similar, a good clue to the fact that theses species are cousins if we take the evolutionary point of view. If we compare to human brain folding, what correspond to the visual cortex is taking a third of the feline brain. Impressive! Look, it’s the first folding starting at the back of the cortex and going by the inside part up to the front of the brain on both hemispheres.
  • brain from rat and ferret: they are two species used in the field of neuroscience research. They learn well. But interestingly, rat cortex is really smooth, compare to the ferret one, very folded. May be it is link to the fact that the ferret develop late (they have childhood like humans). The rat seems to have a bigger olfactory bulb (to smell). So now you don’t wonder anymore why Disney use it as a hero is the animation drawing “Ratatouille”.
  • fetus brains: between 15 and 24 weeks, we can observe the folding of the temporal cortex on the side, obviously the change of size and also the thickening of the surface (if you print the hallow model). Yes, neurons are migrating and take place at the surface. Folding and connections reinforcement are happening later, after birth.
  • Orangutan brain : very similar to the human shape, except the frontal cortex, very reduce.
  • crocodile brain: a very small cortex, two very long olfactory build in front, and a huge brainstem. For sure, reptile brain is very different from the mammal ones.

How to use them? play a little matching game with pictures and you are all set!

Do you have access to a 3D printer? Here are the files to print them yourself.

Download models

We will actualize the page with new information to use the 3D brains with the expansion of our collection.

At last, some picture of the first use of our 3D printed brains.