Brain drain warning: Irreplaceable collection may be destroyed

Stephen Gadd
June 23rd, 2017

This article is more than 6 years old.

One of the world’s largest collections of brains is in danger of being lost to science if a new home can’t be found for it

The unique Danish brain collection may end up abroad (photo: Flickr)

At the moment, there are almost 10,000 brains housed in the cellars of Risskov psychiatric hospital in Aarhus. They stem from psychiatric patients and date from 1945-1982.

However, Aarhus University and Region Midtjylland have indicated they are no longer willing to house the collection, according to Videnskab.dk.

The reason given is that the potential value of the brains to scientific research does not match the outlay connected with the upkeep of the collection.

A unique collection of great value
However, leading experts disagree. “You have to take note of what the politicians have done, but I think it is a very short-sighted decision,” commented Professor Gregers Wegener of the Translational Neuropsychiatry Unit, where the collection is housed.

“I hope that it will be possible for the collection to find another home where there is someone who appreciates the quality of what we have here.”

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The brains could provide unique insight into the entire spectrum of mental illness, and a number of them date back to before the era of the use of psychotropics (mood-altering jobs), so it is possible to study the unaffected raw material.

“It’s a vicious circle because the collection has been starved of funds, and now they want to close it down,” said Professor Poul Videbech from the psychiatric centre in Glostrup, who until recently was in charge at Risskov.

The brain drain?
All may not be lost, as a number of foreign research institutions have expressed an interest in taking on the collection.

There might also be a chance it could end up at the research laboratory for stereology and neuroscience at Bispebjerg-Frederiksberg Hospital or the Retsmedicinsk Institut at the University of Southern Denmark.

All that’s needed to acquire this unique collection is a contribution of around 2.3 million kroner, which the region has asked for and which will otherwise be spent on having the brains destroyed.


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