"Battle of the brain": the war between the best universities in the United States for a rare and coveted collection BBC | Technology and Science | Science


In 2011, American photographer Adam Voorhes hired a scientific American to take a series of photographs of the brain at the Center for Animal Resources at the University of Texas in Austin..

The task led to an extraordinary discovery. A neuroscientist who showed him the brain he had photographed brought him into a small room that was used to store cleaning agents, and there, against the wall, he uncovered his hidden treasure: a collection almost 100 ancient pumpkins, full of brains.

Fascinated by this image and full of curiosity about the origin of these brains, which were so rare, Voorhes recruited his friend, Alex Hannaford's journalist, to conduct an investigation into the origin of this unusual collection.

It was so that both of them discovered that these bottles, which were forgotten and ignored, were once a great prize that challenged the best universities in the country.

This happened in 1987 and the newspaper Houston's chronicle This is called a "battle of the brain".

Where was the collection? and why was it so valuable?

This is what Voorhes and Hannaford began to explore, which years later published their findings in "Wrong" book.

The collector

Hannaford found that the collection was created by a doctor: Coleman de Chenar, a pathologist at the Austin State Hospital from 1950 to the mid-eighties.

The hospital was formerly known as the Texas state of lunatic asylum and the brain that De Chenar belonged to. patients on whom he performed autopsies.

Hannaford told BBC Mundo that it is unclear whether the patients voluntarily donated their brains or if the decisions were taken by others.

The truth is that the De Chenar collection has come to the accumulation of patterns of all kinds of mental illness, many of which caused severe deformations in the brain.

For this reason, the collection looks strange. And that's also what makes it so unusual: some of the disorders that have been recorded are now being effectively treated.

For example, several cases of hydrocephalus, accumulation of fluid in the brain that causes serious problems and causes these organs to appear swollen or wrong.

Today, excess liquid is emptied through a tube that is surgically placed.

The collection also includes one of the most extreme recorded cases of lissencephaly, a condition that makes the brain look abnormally smooth, without distinctive grooves and wrinkles.

Usually, the problem affects the part of the brain, but there is quite smoothly in this collection.


All this explains why in 1987, when Austin State Hospital decided to donate, the main universities in the country They offered to get it.

A note in the Houston Chronicle lists the "battle" and explains that the main medical educational institutions in the country wanted a collection for their value as a research tool.

"There is so much information is available in those brain tissues that many researchers are crying for them, "said Edward D. Bird, associate professor of neuropathology at Harvard Medical School.

In the end, she was awarded the University of Texas Award, which she received thanks to her historic connection with the Austin State Hospital, where medical students were trained.

But the truth is that the collection at the end, after being strongly controversial, was forgotten.

Voorhes told BBC Mundo that he and Hannaford tried to find out more about what had happened.

They noticed this most glasses had stickers They contained three data: the reference number, the hospital state (written in archaic Latin) and the date of death.

Then they tried to find the appropriate documents with this record, but with great disappointment, they were never found.

The university told them they were in the hospital and that the hospital said otherwise.


But what you could figure out is that the original collection was twice as big: about 200 brain joints.

And there are many missing organs in patients schizophrenia.

Indeed, a large number of samples of this disease was another factor that made the collection so favorable.

What happened to these missing brain? No one knows. As with records, they both blame themselves.

But the history of the collection has a happy ending. Thanks to the interest created by the book "Malformed", the University of Texas has decided to test its pattern.

His new Medical School was created magnetic resonance of all brains in order to maintain their value as a research tool.

And, according to the authors, the recent findings, which were made using other brain collections, which are also decades old, suggest that this collection, which responded from late for forgetting, still shines.


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