Let’s Unpack The Stories Behind Those Mysterious Texas Brains

texas brain

Last month, a Halloween-appropriate story went viral, of a cache of brains, decades old, that seemed to have vanished. The missing brains were part of a gift of 200 or so bequeathed to the University of Texas at Austin in 1986, after a frenzied bidding war among institutions including Harvard University. Dating back to the 1950s, the brains came from patients of what was then called the Texas State Lunatic Asylum (since rechristened the Austin State Hospital), an atypically benevolent mental institution from the days when such places could be as bleak as prisons.

The university was ostensibly keeping the brains to research what happens when conditions like Huntington’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and Down Syndrome go untreated. Somewhere along the way though, it lost interest. Half of the collection was mistakenly “destroyed,” according to university officials, who conducted an investigation after the missing brains became a viral sensation.

That we know of the specimens at all is largely due to photographer Adam Voorhes. On assignment to photograph a single brain for Scientific American, Voorhes stumbled upon a closet stacked with jars of the organs steeped in formaldehyde, some visibly decayed, others still “dense as a —> Read More Here


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