Tuesday , July 27 2021

"Brain battle": war between the best universities in the US for rare and coveted collections | BBC | Technology and science |

In 2011, American photographer Adam Voorhes was hired by Scientific American to take a series of photos of the brain at the Animal Resource Center of the University of Texas, Austin..

The task produced extraordinary discoveries. Neuroscience that showed him the brain he had to shoot took him to a small room that was used to store cleaning products, and there, on the wall, he revealed his treasure: a collection almost 100 ancient pumpkins are full of brains.

Enchanted by the image and curious about the origin of their brains, which is very rare, Voorhes recruited his friend, journalist Alex Hannaford, to investigate the origins of this unusual collection.

That was so that the two found that this pumpkin, now forgotten and ignored, was once big prize that debates the best universities in the country.

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

But where did the collection come from? and why is it considered very valuable?

That's what Voorhes and Hannaford began investigating, which many years later published their findings on "Malformation" book.


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

The hospital was previously known as the Lunatic Asylum of State of Texas and the brain left by De Chenar. the patient to whom he performed the autopsy.

Hannaford told BBC Mundo that it was unknown whether patients donated their brains voluntarily or if the decision was made by someone else.

The truth is that De Chenar's collection came to collect samples of all types of mental illness, many of which were caused severe deformation of the brain.

For this reason the collection looks very strange. And that also makes it very unusual: some of the disturbances recorded are now handled effectively.

For example, some examples of hydrocephalus, accumulation of fluid in the brain that causes serious problems and makes these organs look swollen or deformed.

Today the excess liquid is dried through a duct, placed surgically.

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

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


All this explains why in 1987, when the Austin State Hospital decided to donate a collection, the country's main university They bid to get it.

A note in the Houston Chronicle provides an explanation of "fighting" and explained that the country's main medical education institution wanted the collection for its value as a research tool.

"There is so much information is available in the brain network many researchers cry for them, "Dr. Edward D. Bird, a professor of neuropathology at Harvard Medical School, told the newspaper.

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

But the reality is that after strong disputes, the collection was finally forgotten.

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

They pay attention to that most jars have labels They contain three data: reference numbers, conditions suffered by patients (written in ancient Latin) and date of death.

They then tried to find documents that were in accordance with the notes, but, for their great disappointment, they never found them.

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


But what they can find is that the original collection has twice the size: around 200 total brains.

And many lost organs come from patients schizophrenia.

In fact, a large number of samples of this disease are other factors that make the collection coveted.

What happens to the missing brain? Nobody knows Like recording, both blame themselves.

But history of the collection has a happy ending. Thanks to the interest generated by the book "Malformed", the University of Texas decided to revalue their sample.

The newly created Medical School magnetic resonance of all brains to maintain its value as a research tool.

And, according to the authors, the latest findings made using other brain collections that also have decades show that this collection, which changes from a star to a forgotten one, can still shine again.

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