Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Belgium gets world's biggest pickled brain collection
Brussels (AFP) Sept 15, 2016

A new collection in the psychiatric hospital of Duffel in the north of Belgium makes for a ghoulish sight: around 3,000 preserved brains that were originally saved by a British doctor.

The collection of frontal lobes, hippocampi and other key parts of the brain floating in formaldehyde or fixed in paraffin will be used for research into psychiatric illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia.

British neuropathologist John Corsellis collected and conserved the brains over a period of more than 40 years between 1951 and the middle of the nineties but authorities in London ran out of space.

Now they have come to Duffel, where Manuel Morrens, the director of research at the hospital, and his colleagues will share the collection with the faculty of medicine at the University of Antwerp.

"It's the largest brain collection available, to our knowledge," he smiles.

"Nowadays in Belgium, it's really hard, if not almost impossible, to get your hands on actual tissue of patients after they have deceased," says Morrens, due to the stricter ethical guidelines around collecting brain tissue.

"Normally we study how the brain works by looking at blood samples, but now we are able to look at it directly."

One of the main advantages of conducting research on brains from this era is that they are untouched by certain medications that didn't exist at the time.

"Contemporary research is hampered by the fact that brains were removed from patients who have received treatment. We're investigating illness in its purest form," enthuses Morrens.

Until recently the Corsellis collection was kept in bell jars and Tupperware tubs in a musty psychiatric hospital in southeastern England, a collection taken from the mentally ill, epileptics, people with Alzheimer's and even boxers.

But British authorities ran out of storage space and offered them to medical institutions around the world.

- Brains in bell jars -

The original Corsellis collection numbered around 8,500 but the Belgian doctors have mainly taken those that relate to depression and schizophrenia.

Each pickled brain comes with its own medical file kept up until the death of the patient.

The brains could help uncover new discoveries in biological psychiatry science, a field that specialises in understanding mental problems in terms of the biological function of the nervous system, says researcher Violette Coppens.

"Psychiatry is a field that is new in terms of scientific investigation," she said, that has only been well known since the 1980s.

But as the body's the most well-protected organ and therefore most difficult to get to, the brain is the hardest to study -- making the Corsellis collection all the more important.

Coppens and her colleagues will cut samples from the brains and then study them under a microscope to look for inflammation. On Coppens' screen a cut from a brain has been partly dyed red in order to see its cells more easily.

Research conducted on living patients is limited by technology, explains Morrens. MRI scans cannot identify, for example, what kind of proteins or enzymes are activated by illness.

"Can an inflammation of the brain cause, worsen or influence in some way the disease course of several psychiatric disorders?" muses Coppens as she examines the purple rivulets in her sample highlighted by the dye.

It's the question the team will be trying to answer after studying and comparing thousands of different brains.



Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
How did prehistoric humans occupy the Tibetan Plateau?
Beijing, China (SPX) Sep 06, 2016
The Tibetan Plateau, as the Earth's third pole, has long been of interest to many, especially in relation to its human history. Over the last few decades our understanding of the history of human occupation of the Tibetan Plateau has significantly improved as a result of progress made in archaeological, genetic and earth science studies. However, arguments still remain as a result of the m ... read more

Japan official criticised for piggyback ride over puddle

Three workers missing after bridge collapse in China

Nepal's new leader pledges to speed up quake rebuilding

Ex-Japan PM Koizumi says Fukushima not 'under control'

Deriving inspiration from the dragon tree

New material with exceptional negative compressibility

UMD physicists discover 'smoke rings' made of laser light

New material to revolutionize water proofing

Study: Largest marine species most likely to be wiped out by humans

New bivalve species dwelling on a sea cucumber discovered in Japan

Scientists consider the future of seafood and farmed fish

Spain's Donana wetlands going dry, WWF warns

Australia to shut sub-Antarctic research station

Polar bears losing crucial sea ice: study

NASA science flights study effect of summer melt on Greenland ice sheet

Technique could assess historic changes to Antarctic sea ice and glaciers

US challenges $100 bn in China rice, cereal subsidies

Bayer sets $66 bn deal for Monsanto after lengthy pursuit

Rutgers researchers debunk 'five-second rule'

Study suggests cover crop mixtures increase agroecosystem services

Odds of mega-quake rise at high tide: study

Taiwan braces for super typhoon Meranti

S.Korea clearing up after strongest ever quake

Magma accumulation highlights growing threat from Japanese volcano

Boko Haram releases new video without embattled leader

Ghanaian women look to drive stereotypes off the road

COP22 host Morocco's mosques are going green

African fishers undertake highly risky expeditions to make a living

Belgium gets world's biggest pickled brain collection

How did prehistoric humans occupy the Tibetan Plateau?

Smarter brains are blood-thirsty brains

Study: Math-capable parents yield math-capable kids

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement