The human brain, like an egg, consists of soft matter bathed in a fluid and encased in a hard shell. To better understand how our brains respond to sudden accelerations, researchers looked at how egg yolks behave. In a purely translational impact (Image 1), the egg yolk deforms very little. But rotational motions (Images 2 and 3) cause major effects because of the imbalance between pressure forces outside the yolk’s membrane and the centrifugal forces within it. Rotational deceleration was particularly potent (Image 3).
The researchers’ findings are consistent with concussion research, which has shown that impacts with rotational acceleration/deceleration inside the skull are the most damaging. Based on the yolk’s deformation, such impacts likely stretch neurons and disturb their delicate network. (Image credit: cracked egg – K. Nielsen, others – J. Lang et al.; research credit: J. Lang et al.; via Physics World; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)