Practically 2,000 years in the past, a cloud of scorching ash from Mount Vesuvius buried a younger man as he lay on a picket mattress. That burning ash rapidly cooled, turning a few of his mind to glass.
This confluence of occasions in A.D. 79 within the city of Herculaneum, which lay on the western base of the volcano, preserved the normally delicate neural tissue in a sturdy, glassy type. New scrutiny of this tissue has revealed indicators of nerve cells with elaborate tendrils for sending and receiving messages, scientists report October 6 in PLOS ONE.
That the younger man as soon as possessed these nerve cells, or neurons, isn’t any shock; human brains are full of roughly 86 billion neurons (SN: 8/7/19). However samples from historic brains are sparse. Those who do exist have grow to be a soaplike substance or mummified, says Pier Paolo Petrone, a biologist and forensic anthropologist on the College of Naples Federico II in Italy. However whereas finding out the Herculaneum web site, Petrone observed one thing darkish and glossy inside this man’s cranium. He realized that these glassy, black fragments “needed to be the stays of the mind.”
This darkish, shiny object is historic mind tissue from a Mount Vesuvius sufferer. The mind turned to glass because it was heated, liquefied and cooled, a course of referred to as vitrification.P. Petrone
Petrone and colleagues used scanning electron microscopy to check glassy stays from each the person’s mind and spinal twine. The researchers noticed tubular buildings in addition to cell our bodies that have been the proper configurations and dimensions to be neurons. In additional analyses, the staff discovered layers of tissue wrapped round tendrils within the mind tissue. This layering seems to be myelin, a fatty substance that speeds alerts alongside nerve fibers.
The preserved tissue was “one thing actually astonishing and unimaginable,” Petrone says, as a result of the conversion of objects to glass, a course of referred to as vitrification, is comparatively uncommon in nature. “That is the primary ever discovery of historic human mind stays vitrified by scorching ash throughout a volcanic eruption.”