Studying Egg Yolks Could Help with Brain Injuries

A) Reactions of egg yolk under translational impact. The shell was hit with a hammer to achieve translational acceleration. B) Reactions of egg yolk under rotational acceleration impact. The container was set to rotate instantaneously. C) Reactions of egg yolk under rotational deceleration impact. The rotation speed of the container was reduced sharply to create a deceleration impact on the egg yolk. Credit: Ji Lang and Qianhong Wu

Our brains consist of soft matter bathed in watery cerebrospinal fluid inside a hard skull, and in a new article, researchers describe studying another system with the same features, an egg, to search for answers about concussions. Considering that in most concussive brain injuries, the skull does not break, they wanted to find out if it was possible to break or deform the egg yolk without breaking the eggshell.

The study’s results are not what you might expect. Using an egg substitute as a model for the brain, the team discovered that rotational impact – especially decelerating rotation – rather than direct impact causes extensive trauma to the yolk inside. This knowledge could help us more understand the human brain when also experiencing a similar impact. 

The most common and mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is concussion, and the term actually comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to shake violently’. But even one sub-concussive blow to the head is enough to trigger changes in how brain cells function, studies have shown.

The current discovery could help address concussion injuries in sports, Wu notes. Helmets could be designed to mitigate the rotational impact, for instance, and if rotational impacts are implicated, he suggests more cautious testing for concussive brain injury. 

Works Cited

“Eggs Reveal What May Happen to Brain on Impact.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 19 Jan. 2021, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210119114436.htm.

Parletta, Natalie. “Egghead Concussion.” Cosmos Magazine, 19 Jan. 2021, cosmosmagazine.com/science/physics/egghead-concussion/#:~:text=Yolk study sheds light on traumatic brain injuries.&text=Using an egg substitute as,trauma to the yolk inside.

Watson, Clare. “Warped Egg Yolks Are Helping Scientists Understand How to Prevent Brain Injuries.” ScienceAlert, http://www.sciencealert.com/how-does-an-egg-yolk-deform-on-impact-the-answer-might-help-prevent-brain-injuries.