The following text is an AI-generated, expert-checked summary of a key research study cited in a feature article from Scientific American’s May 2023 issue: Synthetic Morphology Lets Scientists Create New Life-Forms by Philip Ball.

You can find the study itself here: Endogenous Gradients of Resting Potential Instructively Pattern Embryonic Neural Tissue via Notch Signaling and Regulation of Proliferation by Pai et al., published in The Journal of Neuroscience in 2015.

Biophysical forces are important in the development of living beings, but we didn't know how they affect the growth of the brain. Vaibhav P. Pai and his team at Tufts University, Massachusetts, studied this in a type of frog called Xenopus laevis. They found that natural electricity inside the body helps shape the brain.

In young frog embryos, cells in a part called the neural tube have a specific electrical charge. If this charge is changed, it can cause problems in brain development. This process is controlled by calcium signaling and gap-junctional communication.

When they changed the electrical charge in certain cells, it caused new nerve tissue to grow outside the normal area. This electrical signal also works with other factors (POU and HB4) to help cells become nerve cells.

This research shows that electrical charges are important for brain development. It also suggests that changing these charges could help treat some birth defects. The study helps us understand how these charges work with other pathways (Notch and Ca2+ signaling) to control brain growth. This information can be used for future research in regenerative medicine and bioengineering.