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April 5, 2013 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Pictures of some brains from the Texas State Mental Hospital. (Not for the squemish.) "I walked into a storage closet filled with approximately one-hundred human brains, none of them normal, taken from patients at the Texas State Mental Hospital. The brains sat in large jars of fluid, each labeled with a date of death or autopsy, a brief description in Latin, and a case number."
posted by OmieWise (35 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sorry about the title.
posted by OmieWise at 10:57 AM on April 5, 2013


Mmmmmmmm portobello mushrooms.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:58 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is the top one so smooth?
posted by mokin at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2013


Why is the top one so smooth?

Probably lissencephaly.
posted by jedicus at 11:01 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It all looks so delicious...
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:02 AM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


The completely smooth brain is terrifying.
posted by maryr at 11:04 AM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


'I could change my life to better suit your mood/Because you're so smooth...'
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:07 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which one belonged to Abby Normal?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:07 AM on April 5, 2013 [21 favorites]


One of the few images that have scarred me and probably other psychology students was a simple comparison photo of alzhaimer patient's brain and a normal brain in Kalat's Biological Psychology, don't know which edition. Alzhaimer patient's brain have wider 'valleys' or folds and somehow that was so wrong and spine-chilling that the page had to be turned fast. Strange thing how automatic and strong that feeling of wrongness was, since I probably don't have any inbuilt healthy-brain detection system and there is nothing comparable in our visible body.
posted by Free word order! at 11:08 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it was this photo or very similar. (Warning! These brains are not right)
posted by Free word order! at 11:13 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Am I reading that correctly? The case histories for these brains, which were stored on microfilm, were destroyed?

What an incredible loss for science, and what a weirdly tragic thing to happen for all those people. Reduced to just their illnesses, floating in a jar, without even their names or stories. I don't know why I feel so protective of the dead; I don't think there's an afterlife in any recognizable sense, so they probably don't mind. And I wouldn't mind if they were just peaceful buried in some green field without headstones, mouldering away. But set into the larger context of dehumanizing the mentally ill throughout history, it seems somehow fundamentally unjust that the most intimate part of them has been preserved in such a way that only attributes to them a disease.

How does consent for these things work now? If, for instance, I have a very severe and very rare neurological disease that means I will decay rapidly in the next two weeks and then die, and I find out today, do I give consent for my brain to be studied now, while I'm still healthy? Can I give it after I start to exhibit symptoms? Could I say, "Yes, but you have to put my name and a list of my ten favorite novels on the label?" Do the doctors and scientists decide that the good of preservation outweighs the common practice of being buried relatively intact? Does my family get the say? What if I was born with that disease, then who would decide?
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:15 AM on April 5, 2013


My understanding is that it's a lot harder to get consent for preserving brains these days, which makes the existing preserved brains all the more valuable. This is why a friend of mine has brains in her basement. (That is not a metaphor.)
posted by maryr at 11:20 AM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cornell also has the Wilder Brain Collection, which once had something like 1,200 specimens, but now is down to 122 (including Professor Wilder's) in the name of efficiency. Most are normal, though Edward H. Rulloff's––linguist, murderer, and subject of the last public hanging in New York State––abnormally huge brain A small sampling of the collection is on display in the hallway outside the psych department office, which is just a downright creepy thing to find as you come out of the elevator. NYT article on the collection.
posted by zachlipton at 11:23 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jarred medical curiosities of all sorts pose problems these days. Consent was a looser thing a century ago. My med school had hundreds of jarred fetuses on shelves in the anatomy lab, most of them collected (without any documented consent) in the early part of the 20th century. They were an active source of embarrassment and the administration was trying to find a way to give them an honorable burial.
posted by killdevil at 11:26 AM on April 5, 2013


We have the National Neurological AIDS Bank that stores the brains of people who have died from HIV related complications. Consent for these brains and other tissues have been pretty damn rigorous and include family and significant others so that there are fewer post-mortem issues. They now have hundreds of publications and are working out some of the myriad ways that HIV affects the brain.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:39 AM on April 5, 2013


This is why a friend of mine has brains in her basement. (That is not a metaphor.)

*giggle*
posted by jillithd at 11:45 AM on April 5, 2013


brain that the university had obtained by trading a syphilitic lung with another institution

This makes me wonder about relative valuations of such things. Maybe there's a chart somewhere with point values for items such as a diseased toe, a set of tonsils, a preserved human fetus, etc.

Also, if you like this stuff you should check out the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia or the newly-relocated National Museum of Health and Medicine near DC.
posted by exogenous at 11:50 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Best lunchtime post EVER.
posted by Renoroc at 12:15 PM on April 5, 2013


Sorry about the title.
posted by OmieWise


Why?
posted by item at 12:20 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I once had a student job doing a lot of miscellaneous tasks at a university bio lab -- setting up lab stations, feeding worms and flies, aliquoting things into little vials, and so on. One day I was clearing out a store room and found an opaque white tub, like the kind bleach comes in, with "brain" written on it in Sharpie.

What happened next.
posted by theodolite at 12:22 PM on April 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Those brains look abbynormal.
posted by Decani at 12:24 PM on April 5, 2013


Amy Farrah Fowler approves.
posted by Splunge at 12:24 PM on April 5, 2013


Why?

Seemed too obvious, nonetheless, I couldn't resist.
posted by OmieWise at 12:30 PM on April 5, 2013


'I could change my life to better suit your mood/Because you're so smooth...'

I will cut you, TheRedArmy.

Somebody please get it out of my head now, please. If removing my brain and giving it to the Texas State Mental Hospital is my only hope to stop hearing Rob Thomas, I will gladly do it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:43 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Joey Michaels, you knew he was trouble when s/he logged in. Shame on you.
posted by maryr at 12:45 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


*thump thump*

BRRRAAAIIIIINNNNSSSS

*thump thump*

BRRRAAAIIIIINNNNSSSS

*thump thump*

BRRRAAAIIIIINNNNSSSS BRRRAAAIIIIINNNNSSSS BRRRAAAIIIIINNNNSSSS
posted by maryr at 12:46 PM on April 5, 2013


It's not how they look that's weird. It's how they feel. Like... sorta firm jello, or Play-Doh that's started to harden. Depends on the preservative of course because fresh brains are really soft.

If you ever get a chance to dissect a human brain, go for it. It's really neat and strange at the same time, destroying the thing that made a person who he or she was, in order to learn more about it. Maybe some day my own brain will get donated, so some budding young student can learn about neuroanatomy. You have to give back, right?
posted by caution live frogs at 1:08 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for not deleting this cortex.
posted by hal9k at 1:36 PM on April 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


The brains on "The Walking Dead" kinda look different when they get splattered.
posted by nostrada at 2:56 PM on April 5, 2013


It's not how they look that's weird. It's how they feel.

It's not the look or the feel, it's the taste that's weird.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:56 PM on April 5, 2013


There can't possibly be any good reason for throwing a half a dozen brains in the same jar, can there?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:17 PM on April 5, 2013


Otherwise they'd be lonely?
posted by maryr at 3:58 PM on April 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm donating my brain to the MS Brain bank or at least I will if I ever post the forms off. There's a consent form, medical history form, information on discussing the donation with relatives, and probably more bits of paper in the pile I have somewhere.

There's a bunch of brain donor programs for different conditions.
posted by goshling at 8:08 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you for that
posted by iamcharity at 2:53 PM on April 6, 2013


I believe I shall rethink that cauliflower I had for dinner....
posted by BlueHorse at 8:32 PM on April 6, 2013


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