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


American photographer Adam Voorhes hired a scientist in 2011 to take a series of brain imaging at the Animal Resource Center of the University of Texas in Austin..

The task led to an extraordinary discovery. A neuroscientist who showed him the brain he had to take took him to a small room for the cleaning of cleaning agents, and there, on the wall, he discovered his hidden treasure: a collection Almost 100 ancient glasses of full brains.

Fascinated by this image and much curiosity about the origin of these brains, which were so rare, Voorhes recruited his friend, journalist Alek Hannaford, to investigate the origin of this unusual collection.

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

That happened in 1987 and the newspaper Houston Chronicle He called it a "battle in the brain".

But where did the collection come from? And why was it considered so valuable?

That's what Voorhes and Hannaford began to explore, which years later they published their findings in "Malformed" book.


Hannaford discovered that the collection was created by a doctor: Coleman de Chenar, who was a pathologist at the Austin Hospital from the 1950s to the mid-1980s.

The hospital was previously known as a lunatic asylum in the state of Texas and the brain De Chenar belonged to. to patients undergoing autopsies.

Hannaford told BBC Mundo that it is not known if patients voluntarily donated the brain or if the decisions were made by others.

It is true that the De Chenara collection has accumulated samples of all types of mental illness, many of which caused severe deformation in the brain.

For this reason, the collection looks so weird. And that's what makes him so unusual: some of the disturbances recorded are now being effectively treated.

E.g, a few examples of hydrocephalus, fluid accumulation in the brain that causes serious problems and makes these organs look swollen or wrong.

Today, excess liquid is drained through a canal, placed surgically.

The collection also includes one of the most extreme cases of lissencephalitis, a condition that makes the brain look unusually smooth, without characteristic grooves and overlaps.

Normally, the problem affects the part of the brain, but in this collection there is one that is completely smooth.


All this explains why in 1987, when the State Hospital of Bosnia and Herzegovina decided to donate the collection, the main universities of the country They want to get it.

A note in Houston's chronicle gives an explanation of "battle" and explains that the country's main health institutions wanted to collect value as a research tool.

"Exists So much information available in those brain tissues which many researchers will schedule for them, "said Dr Edward D. Bird, associate professor of neuropathology at Harvard Medical School.

In the end, the winner of the award was the University of Texas, which was obtained thanks to its historical connection with the State Hospital in Austin, where its medical students worked on internships.

But the truth is that, after being strongly disputed, the collection was eventually forgotten.

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

They noticed this most of the jars had labels They contained three data: the reference number, the patient's condition drunk (written in archaic Latin) and the date of death.

Then they tried to find the appropriate documents with that record, but, until their great disappointment, they never found them.

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


But what they could find out is that The original collection was twice as big: a total of about 200 brains.

And many of the missing organs were from the patients schizophrenia.

In fact, a large number of samples of this disease was another factor that made the collection so eager.

What happened to those missing brains? No one knows. As with the records, both are guilty.

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

His new School of Medicine was created magnetic resonance of all brains in order to preserve its value as a research tool.

And, according to authors, recent findings made using other brain collections that have also had decades suggest that this collection, which has recently burst into the background, could continue to shine.

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