Some science behind the scenes

Brain sand

Corpora arenacea (or brain sand) are calcified structures in the pineal gland and other areas of the brain such as the choroid plexus.

Older organisms have numerous corpora arenacea. Concentrations of "brain sand" increase with age, so the pineal gland becomes increasingly visible on X-rays over time, usually by the third or fourth decade. They are sometimes used as anatomical landmarks in radiological examinations.

Chemical analysis shows that they are composed of calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, magnesium phosphate, and ammonium phosphate. Recently, calcite deposits have been described as well.

Calcite microcrystals in the pineal gland of the human brain: first physical and chemical studies. - Baconnier S, Lang SB,  Polomska M, Hilczer B, Berkovic G, Meshulam G.; Department of Chemical Engineering, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 84105 Beer Sheva, Israel.
A new form of biomineralization has been studied in the pineal gland of the human brain. It consists of small crystals that are less than 20 micron in length and that are completely distinct from the often observed mulberry-type hydroxyapatite concretions. A special procedure was developed for isolation of the crystals from the organic matter in the pineal gland. Cubic, hexagonal, and cylindrical morphologies have been identified using scanning electron microscopy. The crystal edges were sharp whereas their surfaces were very rough. Energy dispersive spectroscopy showed that the crystals contained only the elements calcium, carbon, and oxygen. Selected area electron diffraction and near infrared Raman spectroscopy established that the crystals were calcite. With the exception of the otoconia structure of the inner ear, this is the only known nonpathological occurrence of calcite in the human body. The calcite microcrystals are probably responsible for the previously observed second harmonic generation in pineal tissue sections. The complex texture structure of the microcrystals may lead to crystallographic symmetry breaking and possible piezoelectricity, as is the case with otoconia. It is believed that the presence of two different crystalline compounds in the pineal gland is biologically significant, suggesting two entirely different mechanisms of formation and biological functions. Studies directed toward the elucidation of the formation and functions, and possible nonthermal interaction with external electromagnetic fields are currently in progress.


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