Neuromechanics-Perspectives, Challenges, and Opportunities
Arguably, the brain is the most complex organ in the human body, and—at the same time—the least well understood. The fields of neuroscience, neurobiology, and neuroimaging have seen tremendous progress throughout the past two decades; yet, the field of neuromechanics remains underappreciated and poorly understood. Here, we discuss the importance of neuromechanics in integrating knowledge across the disciplines and scales, from individual neurons via neuronal tissue to brain as a whole. We show that mechanical stretch, strain, stress, and force play a critical role in modulating the structure and function of the human brain, both across space and time. We review current research highlights, and discuss challenges and potential future directions. Using the nonlinear field theories of mechanics, we illustrate two phenomena, which are tightly regulated by mechanical factors: neurodevelopment, the formation of the brain, and neurosurgery, the mechanical manipulation of the brain. We hope that this presentation will inspire discussion around the mechanics of the brain with potential impact in preventing, diagnosing, and treating neurological disorders.