living matter lab
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winter 20 - me234 - intro to neuromechanics


me 234 - intro to neuromechanics 18
me234 youtube channel

ellen kuhl
summary, announcement, syllabus

winter 2020
mon wed fri 2:30-3:20


me234 youtube channel

Brain youtube2017.jpg

dissecting brains


our brain is not only our softest, but also our least well-understood organ. floating in the cerebrospinal fluid, embedded in the skull, it is almost perfectly isolated from its mechanical environment. not surprisingly, most brain research focuses on the electrical rather than the mechanical characteristics of brain tissue. recent studies suggest though, that the mechanical environment plays an important role in modulating brain function. neuromechanics has traditionally focused on the extremely fast time scales associated with dynamic phenomena on the order of milliseconds. the prototype example is traumatic brain injury where extreme loading rates cause intracranial damage associated with a temporary or permanent loss of function. neurodevelopment, on the contrary, falls into the slow time scales associated with quasi-static phenomena on the order of months. a typical example is cortical folding, where compressive forces between gray and white matter induce surface buckling. to understand the role of mechanics in neuroanatomy and neuromorphology, we begin this course by dissecting mammalian brains and correlate our observations to neurophysiology. we discuss morphological abnormalities including lissencephaly and polymicrogyria and illustrate their morphological similarities with neurological disorders including schizophrenia and autism. then, we address the role of mechanics during brachycephaly, plagiocephaly, tumor growth, and hydrocephalus. last, we explore the mechanics of traumatic brain injury with special applications to shaken baby syndrome.


  • 20 % dissection - presentation
  • 30 % homework - three homework assignments, 10% each
  • 20 % project presentation - graded by the class
  • 30 % project report - graded by instructors

previous class projects

harris tc, de rooij r, kuhl e. the shrinking brain: cerebral atrophy following traumatic brain injury. ann biomed eng. 2019; 47:1941-1959. (download)

weickenmeier j, kurt m, ozkaya e, wintermark m, butts pauly k, kuhl e. magnetic resonance elastography of the brain: a comparison between pigs and humans. j mech beh biomed mat. 2018; 77:702-710. (download)

wu lc, ye pp, kuo c, laksari k, camarillo d, kuhl e. pilot findings of brain displacements and deformations during roller coaster rides. j neurotrauma. 2017; 34:3198-3205. (download)

lejeune e, javili a, weickenmeier j, kuhl e, linder c. tri-layer wrinkling as a mechanism for anchoring center initiation in the developing cerebellum. soft matter. 2016;12:5613-5620. (download)

ploch cc, mansi cssa, jayamohan j, kuhl e. using 3D printing to create personalized brain models for neurosurgical training and preoperative planning. world neurosurg. 2016;90:668-674. (download), (perspectives)


day date topic slides homework
mon jan 06 introduction to brain anatomy s01
wed jan 08 introduction to brain mechanics s02
fri jan 10 dissecting brains - uytengsu 130/132 s03
mon jan 13 brain anatomy - student presentations s03
wed jan 15 brain anatomy - student presentations s04
wed jan 22 brain mechanics in 1d – elasticity of neurons s05
fri jan 24 brain mechanics in 3d – elasticity of the brain s06
mon jan 27 brain mechanics in 3d - probing the living brain s07
wed jan 29 brain growth in 1d – axonal growth s08
mon feb 03 brain growth in 2d – morphogenesis s09
wed feb 05 brain growth in 3d - physiology and pathologies s10
mon feb 10 brain damage in 1d – diffuse axonal injury s11
wed feb 12 brain damage in 3d – traumatic brain injury s12
wed feb 19 brain damage in 3d – neurodegeneration s13
fri feb 21 brain damage in 3d - brain atrophy s14
mon feb 24 brain surgery - brain doctors at john radcliffe s15
wed feb 26 brain surgery - craniosynostosis s16
mon mar 02 brain surgery – decompressive craniectomy s17
wed mar 04 brain regeneration - spinal cord injury s18
mon mar 09 final projects - discussion, presentation, evaluation s19
wed mar 11 final projects - discussion, presentation, evaluation s20
fri mar 13 final project reports due

matlab files

here's the matlab code for brain folding

additional reading

bayly pv, taber la, kroenke cd. mechanical forces in cerebral cortical folding: a review of measurements and models. j mech beh biomed mat. 2014;29:568-581. (download)

budday s, steinmann p, kuhl e. the role of mechanics during brain development. j mech phys solids. 2014:72:75-92. (download)

budday s, nay r, steinmann p, wyrobek t, ovaert tc, kuhl e. mechanical properties of gray and white matter brain tissue by indentation. j mech behavior biomed mat. 2015;46:318-330. (download)

budday s, steinmann p, kuhl e. physical biology of human brain development. front cell neurosci. 2015;9:257. (download)

budday s, sommer g, birkl c, langkammer c, hayback j, kohnert j, bauer m, paulsen f, steinmann p, kuhl e, holzapfel ga. mechanical characterization of human brain tissue. acta biomat. 2017;48:319-340. (download)

dennerll tj, lamoureux p, buxbaum re, heidemann sr. the cytomechanics of axonal elongation and retraction. j cell bio. 1989;109:3073-3083. (download)

franceschini g, bigoni d, regitnig p, holzapfel ga. brain tissue deforms similar to filled elastomers and follows consolidation theory. j mech phys solids. 2006;54:2592-2620. (download)

goriely a, geers mgd, holzapfel ga, jayamohan j, jerusalem a, sivaloganathan s, squier w, van dommelen jaw, waters s, kuhl e. mechanics of the brain: perspectives, challenges, and opportunities. biomech mod mechanobio. 2015;14:931-965. (download)

hardan ay, libove ra, keshavan ms, melhem nm, minshew nj. a preliminary longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging study of brain volume and cortical thickness in autism. biol psych. 2009;66:320-326. (download)

kruse sa, rose gh, glaser kj, manduca a, felmlee jp, jack cr, ehman rl. magentic resonance elastography of the brain. neuroimage. 2008;39:231-237. (download)

miller k, chinzei k. constitutive modelling of brain tissue: experiment and theory. j biomech. 1997;30:1115-1121. (download)

raybaud c, widjaja e. development and dysgenesis of the cerebral cortex: malformations of cortical development. neuroimag clin n am. 2011;21:483–543. (download)

richman dp, stewart rm, hutchinson jw, caviness vs. mechanical model of brain convolutional development. science. 1975;189:18-21. (download)

sun t, hevner rf. growth and folding of the mammalian cerebral cortex: from molecules to malformations. nature neurosci. 2014;15:217-231. (download)

van essen dc. a tension-based theory of morphogenesis and compact wiring in the central nervous system. nature. 1997;385:313-318. (download)

weickenmeier j, kuhl e, goriely a. the multiphysics of prion-like disease: progression and atrophy. phys rev lett. 2018;121:158101. (download)