3D printing the brain

It is not at all clear what technology will attain “human-level” intelligence first. Robin Hanson proposes brain emulation (e.g see here).  I’ve been skeptical of emulation and am leaning towards machine learning (e.g. see here). However, given the recent technological advances of connectomics and 3D printing, brain emulation or rather replication might not be as distant as I thought. 3D printing is a technology to manufacture any 3 dimensional object by sequentially depositing 2 dimensional layers. You can find out more about it here including building your own 3D printer . People now regularly use open source software  to take any object they may want, slice it into 2 dimensional layers then print it.  The technology has reached the point where you can print with any material that can be squirted including biological material (see video here). People in the field are currently gearing up to print complete organs like kidneys and the liver. It is not overly far-fetched that they could print out an entire brain in the future. Recent progress in connectomics can be tracked here. The current state of the art involves taking electron microscope images of thin slices of neural tissue.  The hard part is to reassemble these 2D slices back into a 3D brian, the reverse of 3D printing. However, perhaps what we can do is to 3D print the images first to obtain a faithful 3D reconstruction of the brain and then use the model to assist in the software reconstruction. If you had molecular level image resolution, you could even try to print out a functioning brain, complete with docked synaptic vesicles ready to be released!


4 thoughts on “3D printing the brain

  1. If we can 3D print a brain at the molecular level, is it plausible that we can build a (Star Trek) transporter? Although, we will need some safe guards so that we don’t wind up with an evil Capt. Kirk as in the “Mirror, Mirror” episode.


  2. The problem with transporters is that we need to 3D scan and then 3D print and we don’t know what resolution we’ll need. At some point we will run into measurement and molecular manipulation limits. We’ll also have to freeze dry and slice you to scan you.
    There is also the issue of how long it will take to scan or print something as complex as a brain. If we print at the nanometer scale then that’s a hundred million layers for a brain. If we could print at a rate of a layer per second, which is pretty fast, then that would take about 3 years. We have a long way to go technologically I think.


  3. I drop a leave a response each time I appreciate a article on a
    site or I have something to valuable to contribute to the discussion.

    It’s caused by the sincerness displayed in the post I read. And on this post 3D printing the brain Scientific Clearing House. I was moved enough to post a comment ;-) I actually do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay.
    Is it only me or does it look like like a few of these
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