The brain is one of our most complex and least understood organs, and many questions remain about how it works, how it develops, and how to protect it. Mechanics has a valuable perspective to bring to these questions at both the beginning and end of life, from our development in utero to softening of the brain in Alzheimer's disease. Our research crosses disciplinary boundaries, involving collaborators from applied math to child psychiatry, teaching and learning from each other.
The challenges are many, as the brain is unlike traditional engineering materials in nearly every way: heterogeneous, anisotropic, growing, porous, and extremely soft. Working with materials like this requires that we adopt from advanced mechanics in areas such as anisotropy, plasticity, thermal expansion, and poroelasticity to better model interactions across scales. In order to do this, we adapt commercial computational tools, designed to model traditional engineering materials like steel and concrete, extending them with our own code to work with the huge variety of complex materials found in the human body.
Our goal is to understand the relationship between biological and mechanical forces in the patterns we see in the brain across species and across health and neurological disorders.
We are working towards more mechanistic growth models that capture the nonlocal behavior of living tissues due to intracellular interactions.
Addressing open questions about the buckling behavior of complex soft materials leads to new insights into the process of folding in the brain and other biological soft tissues.
Modeling the interactions of the brain, dura mater, and skull during cranio-cerebral development.