Tiny Tunnels Between Your Brain and Skull Help Fight Disease

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iStock

The inner workings of the brain are one of biology's greatest mysteries. There is much that scientists don’t fully understand about the most complex organ in the human body, from how we store memories to why we sleep and dream.

They're slowly chipping away at its secrets, though. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School have discovered the existence of tiny tunnels connecting the skull and the brain in both humans and mice, according to Science Alert. The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, reveal how immune cells take a “shortcut” by traveling through these tunnels to get to the brain in the event of a stroke, meningitis, injury, or other disorder affecting brain function. The cells, which help to reduce inflammation, were previously thought to move through the bloodstream.

Prior to this study, researchers didn’t know whether these cells, a type of white blood cell called neutrophils—which help the body defend itself against infections like meningitis—originated in the skull or in the tibia (a.k.a. the shin bone). Using membrane dyes that were injected into the cells of mice, researchers were able to track these cells and see where they traveled.

It was determined that more neutrophils were coming from the skull than the tibia, and upon closer inspection, researchers learned that they were traveling through microscopic channels that link bone marrow in the skull with the outer lining of the brain. Next, the researchers took pieces of a human skull to determine if the same concept applies to our anatomy. Lo and behold, the channels were indeed visible—and they’re five times larger than the tunnels found in mouse skulls.

Scientists say further research is needed, but believe the findings could help improve their understanding of how certain diseases affect the brain. The next step: investigating the role these tunnels play in responding to acute stroke, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, and other ailments.

[h/t Science Alert]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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The Northern Lights Storms Are Getting Names—and You Can Offer Up Your Suggestions

A nameless northern lights show in Ylläs, Finland.
A nameless northern lights show in Ylläs, Finland.
Heikki Holstila, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

While all northern lights are spectacular, they’re not all spectacular in the same way. Aurora borealis, or “northern dawn,” occurs when electrons in the magnetic field surrounding Earth transfer energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere. The molecules then emit the excess energy as light particles, which create scintillating displays whose colors and shapes depend on many known and unknown factors [PDF]—type of molecule, amount of energy transferred, location in the magnetosphere, etc.

Though the “storms” are extremely distinct from each other, they haven’t been named in the past the way hurricanes and other storms are christened. That’s now changing, courtesy of a tourism organization called Visit Arctic Europe. As Travel + Leisure reports, the organization will now christen the strongest storms with Nordic names to make it easier to keep track of them.

“There are so many northern lights visible in Arctic Europe from autumn to early spring that we started giving them names the same way other storms are named. This way, they get their own identities and it’s easier to communicate about them,” Visit Arctic Europe’s program director Rauno Posio explained in a statement.

Scientists will be able to reference the names in their studies, much like they do with hurricanes. And if you’re a tourist hoping to check out other people’s footage of the specific sky show you just witnessed, searching by name on social media will likely turn up better results than a broad “#auroraborealis.”

Visit Arctic Europe has already given names to recent northern lights storms, including Freya, after the Norse goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, and Sampo, after “the miracle machine and magic mill in the Finnish national epic poem, ‘Kalevala.’” A few other monikers pay tribute to some of the organization’s resident “aurora hunters.”

But you don’t have to be a goddess or an aurora hunter in order to get in on the action. Anybody can submit a name (along with an optional explanation for your suggestion) through the “Naming Auroras” page here. It’s probably safe to assume that submissions related to Nordic history or culture have a better chance of being chosen, but there’s technically nothing to stop you from asking Visit Arctic Europe to name a northern lights show after your dog.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]