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Biomech Model Mechanobiol. 2009 Aug;8(4):253-62. doi: 10.1007/s10237-008-0131-4. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Residual stress in the adult mouse brain.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University, St Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA.


This work provides direct evidence that sustained tensile stress exists in white matter of the mature mouse brain. This finding has important implications for the mechanisms of brain development, as tension in neural axons has been hypothesized to drive cortical folding in the human brain. In addition, knowledge of residual stress is required to fully understand the mechanisms behind traumatic brain injury and changes in mechanical properties due to aging and disease. To estimate residual stress in the brain, we performed serial dissection experiments on 500-mum thick coronal slices from fresh adult mouse brains and developed finite element models for these experiments. Radial cuts were made either into cortical gray matter, or through the cortex and the underlying white matter tract composed of parallel neural axons. Cuts into cortical gray matter did not open, but cuts through both layers consistently opened at the point where the cut crossed the white matter. We infer that the cerebral white matter is under considerable tension in the circumferential direction in the coronal cerebral plane, parallel to most of the neural fibers, while the cerebral cortical gray matter is in compression. The models show that the observed deformation after cutting can be caused by more growth in the gray matter than in the white matter, with the estimated tensile stress in the white matter being on the order of 100-1,000 Pa.

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